Kristi House’s Nelson Diaz earns top national honor

Nelson Diaz receiving awardKristi House recently announced that Nelson Diaz, board of directors president, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Bud Cramer Award from the National Children’s Alliance. The award recognizes an individual who has made a significant impact on children.

Diaz was nominated for the award by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Every day, Mr. Diaz is helping to ensure that the children of Miami-Dade and of the state of Florida are kept safe from predators and receive the necessary services to heal from the pain of child sexual abuse,” Sen. Rubio said.

For several years Diaz has been focused on addressing the horrific reality of children being bought and sold in the sex trafficking industry. When he learned that Miami was a leading hub for this previously overlooked form of child sexual abuse and that girls and boys as young as 11 and 12 years old were victims, he vowed to help Kristi House bring about a change.

“Nelson led the charge for changing the way Florida views and treats child victims of sex trafficking,” said Kristi House executive director Trudy Novicki. “He has made a lasting and profound impact not just for Kristi House, but for all children exposed to commercial sexual exploitation throughout our state.”

Diaz helped raise awareness among lawmakers of the stunning contradiction in the law that made it possible for children who were not old enough to consent to sexual relations to be charged as perpetrators of the crime of prostitution. After three years of advocacy leadership, gradually adding in voices of support statewide, legislators also agreed that the situation needed to be fixed. Both the Florida House and Senate unanimously passed the Safe Harbor Act in 2012, and it became law in 2013.

“Nelson truly cares about this community and these child victims,” said State Rep. Erik Fresen, sponsor of the Florida Safe Harbor Act.

“He worked tirelessly in Tallahassee to bring about significant change, not just in the law, but in the hearts and minds of lawmakers on both sides of the isle,” said State Sen. Anitere Flores, who sponsored the bill in the Florida Senate.

“Over the past several years, Kristi House has been able to accomplish monumental work for children who are victims of one of the most insidious crimes imaginable: commercial sexual exploitation,” Diaz said. “I am happy I could help with the Florida Safe Harbor Act which recognizes that children who are trafficked for commercial sexual purposes are victims of a crime rather than criminals. I am truly flattered and honored to receive this honor and I am extremely proud of Kristi House and the many people to whom this award truly belongs.”

The award carries the name of former U.S. Rep. Robert E. (Bud) Cramer, creator of the children’s advocacy model that is successfully replicated in more than 750 accredited centers throughout the country. The award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated commitment and dedication to children through his or her extraordinary promotion of the Children’s Advocacy Center model. It’s given to an individual who has moved the field forward through vision, leadership, and the ability to reach and motivate great numbers of people.

Kristi House’s program, Project GOLD, is focused on the commercial sexual exploitation of girls. Through a Drop-In Center staffed with counselors, mentors and clinicians, the project provides wrap-around case management and mental health services to underage girls caught up in the dangerous lives of sexual exploitation at the hands of traffickers and perpetrators.

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