Lost Girls: Joanna’s story

Written by Kelly White
A young female-identified person smiling at the camera.
“You know that feeling, when nothing seems worth it anymore, and each day it just gets that much harder to keep yourself going? At times like that, it’s the people you surround yourself with that make the biggest difference. I got lucky.”


Do you ever wonder if you can really make a difference? If the good you put out into the world can actually make things better?

I sincerely want you to know that you can make a difference.

The above quote is from Joanna, a self-described “Lost Girl” who – through SAFE – found the hope and support she needed to begin healing. Every single day at SAFE, I hear stories like hers. Stories that prove that our supporters are making incredible things possible.

Joanna’s story

Joanna was in a support group of young women at a local high school led by our Expect Respect program, which works with youth in schools to prevent future violence and abuse. Between them, they have experienced sexual abuse, sexual assault, physical violence at home, bullying, dating violence, and exposure to domestic violence.

But through the support group, these girls were able to let their guards down, trust each other, and lean on each other for support.

Joanna had faced violence in her home, which escalated to the point where she ran away. She fell so far behind that she was no longer able to attend school, and had to start online classes to catch up.

Through all this, it was Joanna’s support group that kept her going:

“We are the Lost Girls: The ones outcast from our homes, beat down by peer pressure and abuse, neglected by our families, ostracized by our friends, drowning in expectations, struggling to find our place, and overworking ourselves to support our own. But together, we became more than that. We became young women ready to face the world. We became friends.”

We couldn’t do it without people like you

Because of the generous support from our community, Joanna is now on track to graduate with the rest of her class. She hopes to become a social worker or a counselor in the future.

“If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that our voices deserve to be heard and our feelings are valid and important. I’ll miss each and every one of them as I journey forth into the bright future they helped create.”

The next time you’re wondering whether you can make a difference, I hope you remember Joanna’s story. I hope you remember that support from people just like you can make a difference in survivors’ lives every single moment of every single day.