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Emily's Story

Worry and shame are a constant weight on 16-year-old Emily, who has experienced ongoing abuse by her mom’s fiancé. Emily keeps the abuse a secret to protect her mom, but negative thoughts and a sense of hopelessness have become too much for Emily to bear. With no plan but to escape, Emily flees to her best friend Shayla’s house, and Shayla and her mom Carla give Emily support and a safe place to stay. When it’s time to leave, however, Emily’s negative voice tells her there is no other option but to run away from home.

When Carla finds Emily later that night waiting for a bus, Emily is driven to tell her about the abuse. Carla promises to help Emily end the situation, and together they tell Emily’s mom the truth. In the months that follow, Emily and her mom transition to a new life and rebuild their relationship, but the negative thoughts persist. Now that she’s more able to talk about her mental health, however, Emily can rely on the support of her mom, her friends, and a new peer support group to cope with her thoughts and find the hope she thought she lost months ago.


A painful secret has been haunting Emily for months. She’s managed to keep it from her mom, but now mom’s going out of town for the weekend, and Emily will be left alone with Brandon, her mom’s fiancé. She can’t talk about what happened with Brandon, but she can’t stay home with him either. Feeling trapped and hopeless, Emily tells her mom she’s going to her friend Shayla’s house and hastily leaves, unsure how she can ever come back.


It was a relief to stay with Shayla for a night, but with a seemingly impossible situation waiting at home, Emily finds herself wandering the streets with nowhere to go. She ignores her mom’s calls, but she can’t ignore her negative thoughts. Waiting for a bus to take her anywhere else, she is surprised to hear her name called – Carla, Shayla’s mom, offers her a ride home. With Carla’s encouragement, Emily lets herself believe she has another option: telling a trusted person about the abuse she’s experienced at home.


Emily and Shayla hang out in Shayla’s room, and Shayla can tell something is wrong. Carla, Shayla’s mom, offers to let Emily stay the night, and advises Shayla to listen and be supportive. Emily feels isolated by her situation and her negative thoughts, but even though she’s not ready to open up to her friend about what’s going on, Shayla is there for her, and helps Emily remember that she is worthy of love.


Emily and her mom are decorating their new apartment, Emily is doing virtual therapy, and their shared trauma moves further into the past each day. So why does Emily still feel haunted by negative thoughts? She never saw her mom’s fiancé again after disclosing the abuse, but the feelings of guilt and hopelessness stuck around. With the encouragement of her new support group, though, Emily is finding that sharing her feelings through photography is a strong coping skill – one that keeps her self-worth and the love of her mom and her friends in focus.

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