The dark side of Derby: raising awareness about human trafficking
Advocates say human trafficking and prostitution increases by three times during the week of the Kentucky Derby.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Thousands come to Louisville every year for the Kentucky Derby, but volunteers are trying to bring to light the darker side of the most exciting two minutes in sports.
“I believe that the minute you leave your doorstep, that you could become a potential victim because girls are being snatched and forced and told to do this,” said Angela Renfro.
Renfro became a victim of human trafficking early on in life, being sexually assaulted at just 3 years old.
“A lot of times people are not aware that it's happening in our city,” Renfro said.
She became a prostitute at the age of 9 and her life in the sex trade quickly became the new normal.
“It went into other things -- older men buying me off the streets,” she said.
Her pimp gave her the name Kristy Love. She ended up getting pregnant at 13 and had five children before turning 21.
Now she and volunteers with "Free2Hope" are making sure that doesn't happen to anyone else.
“His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak,” said Denise Griffis, who prayed while holding hands with other volunteers.
After a quick prayer the volunteers spread out across Louisville and southern Indiana and tried to raise awareness about human trafficking with the help of area businesses.
“If we could pin this up in your window just in case somebody walks by who is being trafficked, sees it, and they can call this number?” volunteer Carissa Smith asked at the first stop of the day.
It's a simple card with the national human trafficking hotline number placed in windows the week before the Kentucky Derby.
“We all know that people are here for entertainment, and that also brings in the predator, and it's sad to say Louisville, Kentucky is known for prostitution and human trafficking,” Renfro said.
Amy Leenerts, Founder of "Free2Hope," says human trafficking increases by three times during this time of year, and because of their yearly outreach, calls to the hotline number have gone up 800 percent.
“It just proves that if people have a clue of who to call and the number to call, that they'll actually do it,” Leenerts said.
As a survivor of human trafficking, Renfro now houses other women during their recovery through the Kristy Love Foundation. She uses the name she was given during that dark time as a sense of empowerment.
“It has a strong statement and lets you know that you can be free and free for good,” Renfro said.
The human trafficking hotline number is 1-888-373-7888.
If you would like more information on "Free2Hope," click here.
You can also read more about the Kristy Love Foundation by clicking here.
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