For many survivors of sexual violence, self-love is an essential part of the healing process and a powerful hashtag campaign is helping them share their strength online.
#SurvivorLoveLetter encourages survivors to flood social media with powerful handwritten love letters to themselves on Valentine’s Day. With harrowing honesty, the campaign celebrates resilience in the face of trauma.
This Valentine’s Day marks the third year of the hashtag movement, created by director and artist Tani Ikeda in 2015. She was inspired to start the viral campaign after reflecting on the healing process of her own rape the “anniversary” of which is on Valentine’s Day.
“#SurvivorLoveLetter is a call to survivors of sexual violence and our loved ones to publicly celebrate our lives,” Ikeda writes on the project’s Tumblr page.
Valentine’s Day can hold painful memories for some survivors of sexual violence. Nearly 1 in 10 women will survive rape by an intimate partner in her lifetime, meaning a day celebrating intimate relationships can be traumatic.
“When we live in a culture of violence, one of the most radical things we can do is love ourselves,” Ikeda wrote on Instagram this week.
“On a holiday that for many of us is an anniversary of violence, I want to publicly celebrate rape survivors who go on living, even after being treated by our perpetrators and society as less than human,” she says.
Survivors who want to participate anonymously can also submit their letters to the project’s Tumblr, or email Ikeda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who haven’t experienced sexual violence themselves, the project invites them to write a letter honoring the resilience of survivors and use the hashtag to spread awareness.
In one anonymous entry on the #SurvivorLoveLetter Tumblr, a woman with the pseudonym “Elizabeth” writes to her past self on the night of her assault: Oct. 25, 2015.
“You deserve happiness,” she writes. “You deserve life. You deserve help. You deserve everything good in this world.
“I am with you always.”
If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.