Early childhood abuse lingers into adulthood, and can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Yet those who can overcome the trauma often have the biggest hearts. Je’net Kreitner is one such incredible woman.
Je’net Kreitner experienced unimaginable abuse from people she trusted beginning at age 3.
Kreitner’s babysitter’s boyfriend had sexually abused her, and she did what she was supposed to do: she told her parents about the abuse.
At first her father admonished her about the accusations. However, one night he came into her bedroom and asked her to show him what the babysitter had done.
Three-year-old Kreitner showed her father what she had endured, but instead of helping her, he began sexually abusing her as well.
“That’s where trust in my life ended with a slammed door. I think from that moment on I knew that I couldn’t tell anybody ever again because if I did they might start doing that to me as well,” Kreitner told The Epoch Times.
Her father began trafficking her between the ages of 6 and 8.
When she was 14 years old, her father died of a heart attack on Father’s Day. Finally, the abuse was over for the time being.
Kreitner kept the abuse to herself, and for years suppressed the memories.
A budding actress, she attended the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, California, in 1978. And in the summer of 1980 she traveled to Los Angeles and was cast as Sally in the musical “Cabaret.”
Kreitner also played roles in sitcoms such as “Three’s Company,” and won a Drama-Logue award for her role as Jill in the play “Equus.”
“So I had fledgling musical theater career,” Kreitner explained.
But one role, which Kreitner now describes as ironic, cut close to the bone.
She was cast in a production called “Homeless: A Street Opera.” Her character grew up with an abusive dad and with a mom who wouldn’t protect her. The character’s story was a close reflection of her actual childhood.
A family member came to see the show, and took her out for breakfast after the show closed. They began talking, and memories started resurfacing.
“It was like a switch that switched, and things just started to come back to me that, in hindsight, didn’t look right,” Kreitner described.
A flood of abusive memories came rushing back through Kreitner’s mind, and she fell apart. She had no family around to support her.
Her mother had married a man in “high social circles” and they didn’t want her to talk about the abuse. Kreitner turned to alcohol and drugs to try to numb the pain.
She lost her job and her marriage.
Kreitner was in Anaheim, California, at a bar with a friend when a man approached her.
“I realized this man had me pegged from the very beginning,” Kreitner recalled in hindsight.
He was willing to talk to her about the abuse, and she felt comfortable with him because everyone else in her life up to that point hadn’t been willing to listen.
He convinced her to sell her side business and move out of California with him. However once they left, she was isolated.
That’s when he began to violently abuse her. Three years later, he packed up all her belongings into two suitcases and abandoned her and her son Jeremy at Disneyland on a rainy January 24, 1994.
Kreitner was 36, and her son Jeremy was only 6 when they became homeless.
“It was like my mind was in two places. I was like, I can’t believe he did this, and I should have seen this coming,” Kreitner recalled.
Kreitner and her son spent the beginning of the first night in a phone booth. A prostitute graciously invited them to stay in her motel room for the rest of the night.
She called her mother from that phone booth, but her mother had begun to suffer from the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Unaware of her mother’s illness, Kreitner felt abandoned because her mother wouldn’t and couldn’t help her.
“How do you turn your back on your daughter who is literally on the street with your grandson?” she remembered thinking.
“I felt completely and utterly helpless and alone at that point. She hadn’t rescued me or helped me when I was little and she was turning her back on me one more time,” Kreitner said.
Kreitner was homeless for the next six months. She was able to have Jeremy stay with her ex-husband’s mother.
During the week Jeremy would stay with his grandmother, and Kreitner would have him on the weekends.
She would do whatever she had to do to earn a little money for a motel room for Jeremy on the weekends.
On June 24, 1994, Kreitner took Jeremy back to his grandmother’s house, then took a book called “Bad Love” by Jonathan Kellerman to the park.
She was sitting on a bench reading when, in her peripheral vision, she saw a man walk up to her.
“I’m just thinking to myself, ‘Oh God I know he’s going to try and solicit me, I don’t want anything to do with that today,'” she remembered.
The man said he had a case of the books back at his home, and she lashed out.
Unperturbed, the man explained himself, and sat down next to her. It turned out he worked at a nearby convention center and had just left a book show.
Kreitner softened and began to tell him her whole story.
“I can tell that he cared,” she remembered. “It felt good to get that off my chest.”
They parted ways, but there was a knock on her motel room the next day. She opened the door and the man from the park was there.
“He looked me in the eye and said ‘Je’net, you don’t belong out there.’ There was something in the way he said it like he really means this, he sees me,” she recalled.
He told her he lived in a converted one-bedroom apartment. He promised to give her and Jeremy the bedroom and he would sleep on the couch in the living room.
She took him up on his offer, but in the back of her mind she didn’t fully trust him.
“I put him through hell for three years. I figured this guy was going to give up on me and turn around and be a bad guy,” Kreitner said.
But it didn’t happen.
“He just never ever stopped being supportive,” she said.
Three years later she married the man, Patrick, and they had a child together.
But that’s not where the story ends. Kreitner still had to address her mental health and come to terms with the abuse she had endured. She had to contend with her emotions regarding her past before she could find employment.
On her road to recovery, Kreitner joined a church, and for the next 12 years found strength in speaking with incarcerated men and women about changing their lives.
She then began working for a variety of non-profits.
During this entire period, the Kreitners took in homeless women to stay in their own home.
At one point they had 10 women and 10 children living at a local motel that functioned as a shelter.
The kindness of opening their home to the homeless and housing them in the motel would develop into Grandma’s House of Hope three years later, which provides shelter and assistance for homeless women.
Grandma’s House of Hope was officially founded in 2004. In order to provide assistance to homeless men, the Kreitners plan to open Grandpa’s House of Hope this year.
The Kreitners have helped over 2,000 women, and have served over 2 million meals to children living in motels.
“Our mission at Grandma’s House is to empower the invisible. I felt invisible for so many years of my life because nobody was seeing what was going on with me because nobody was taking the time,” Kreitner explained.
“I’m really out here for the underdog, and the one who keeps getting turned away.”