Sexually abused for the first time as a young child, Amy Leenerts was led to believe that it was her fault and that she was to blame for what happened to her. "That set off something in my mind," she says. "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 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 several awards, including:
Keiona became involved with Free2Hope 2 years ago when she sought treatment for her substance use disorder and needed resources for her personal experiences with violence and trauma. While she had a long and arduous battle with the disease of addiction, Keiona overcame her substance use disorder by 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 a platform for healing and changing lives. She is now working towards professional development by attending Southern New Hampshire University for a Bachelor's in Psychology and Counseling and working to be a state-qualified Adult Peer Specialist.