Sexually abused the first time as a young child, Amy Leenerts was told that she was to blame for what happened to her. “That set off something in my mind,” she says. “I felt that whenever something negative happened to me, it was my fault.”
Abuse followed her throughout childhood including a traumatic rape at 19 years old. Leenerts always felt “marked,” as though something inherently evil in her that allowed abusers to find her. It was years before she gave up her rights to being a victim and became a Survivor determined to live a healthy, restored life.
Her perspective widened, and she began to notice others who suffered the effects of sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking. Now, Leenerts devotes her energy to finding new approaches to prevent human trafficking and other sex crimes against women and children throughout our state, and ultimately to help victims begin their journey toward health and wholeness.
In 2013 Amy founded Free2Hope Inc., a non-profit devoted to Educating groups, Exposing human trafficking through outreach, Equipping local businesses, and Enabling a safe place through a Women's Drop-in Center located in Portland. Her long term goals are to establish a safe house outside of the city for women that have been victimized by sexual crimes women. On the way to that dream, she has garnered a number of awards, including:
Keiona first became involved with Free2Hope 2 years ago when she was seeking treatment for her substance use disorder and resources for her personal experiences with violence and trauma. While she had a long and tough battle with the disease of addiction, Keiona overcame her substance use disorder through attending Karen's Place Maternity Center. After recovery and healing, Keiona became a peer support at Karen's Maternity Place where she achieved certificates in the Master Studies Program of Addiction Recovery Care. After moving back to Louisville, she got back into contact with Amy, expressing her ambition to help those in the community. A few weeks later, Keiona joined the Free2Hope team as a peer support, where she would help women who struggle with similar issues she has experienced, such as substance use disorder, sex trafficking, and domestic violence. She states that Free2Hope has been a blessing and has been a platform for healing and changing lives. She is now working towards professional development through attending Southern New Hampshire University for a Bachelors in Psychology and Counseling, as well as working to be a state qualified Adult Peer Specialist.
I have been a resident of Portland, KY for nine years. My boyfriend, Franklin, and I, live in the Portland area. I have two beautiful daughters ages 10 and 15. My work experience has been vast, but I treasure my service experience with Hosea House and New Life Direction Ministries. I worked for Hosea House for a year. Hosea House allowed me serve people in need in a direct way because I lived there from 2013 – 2014. Then I was honored to work there from 2014–2015. I used the example of what I learned by living there by having the opportunity to mentor women and children. I was taught through Christ anything is possible. My next work experience was New Life Directions Ministry. I was grateful to be able to convey my life experience through speaking engagements for about a year, until I had to move to another town. These two experiences allowed me to use my passion to help and encourage others. My favorite quote that reflects my life is “There is always a rainbow after the storm.”