Valentine's Day has often been thought of as a holiday shared exclusively between romantic partners, focused on material gifts like chocolates or flowers. However, with the rise of Galentine's and Palentine's day, more people are using the holiday to express gratitude, appreciation, and love for all the special people in their lives. This year, following Time's Up and the #MeToo Movement, many folks are making Valentine's Day a celebration in support of sexual assault survivors with tweets tagged with #SurvivorLoveLetter, and they're so moving.
The "Survivor Love Letter" hashtag was first created in 2015 by Tani Ikeda, a filmmaker and co-founder of imMEDIAte Justice — a nonprofit organization that mentors marginalized girls in filmmaking and media production, as a tool of empowerment. Ikeda told The Daily Dot in 2016, "#SurvivorLoveLetter was an act of defiance, a declaration of self-love and a call to allies to honor the survivors in their lives. I imagined what it would mean for my younger self to wake up on Valentine’s Day and read message after message of public support for surviving." In an article for the HuffPost in 2017, Ikeda wrote she created the hashtag especially with other activists who are women of color in mind.
Though the original hashtag is from two years ago, people have taken to Twitter to share their own messages of support for survivors on Valentine's Day — making the hashtag go viral. Unlike #MeToo, the #SurvivorLoveLetter hashtag is less about sharing potentially triggering or graphic experiences, and more focused on uplifting and empowering those who have experienced sexual assault. It is about celebrating the accomplishments and resilience of survivors; #SurvivorLoveLetter is about acknowledging the strength it takes to overcome the effects of sexual assault.
Feminist writer and public speaker Jaclyn Friedman tweeted out, "Survivors, I am so in love with our anger. Don’t let anyone tell you to squelch it. Our anger is powerful &# transformative bc it’s coming from our life force. It is asserting our inviolable sovereignty. Our anger at abusers & enablers is self-love in action. #SurvivorLoveLetter."
Andrea L. Pino, author of We Believe You and co-founder of End Rape On Campus, also shared a message to fellow survivors, tweeting, "Dear Sister Survivor: You are the hero of your story, hermanx. You are the fire that lifts us and lights our way forward. You are the future, hermana. I can’t wait for you to lead our pack towards a world with no more #metoo's. #SurvivorLveLetter."
Other messages and love letters were more succinct, but still just as heartwarming and reaffirming for survivors. Orphan Black actor Tatiana Maslany simply tweeted, "I believe you. You are not alone. #Survivor Love Letter." Programmer Juliet Shen added in a tweet, "If people immediately around you don't believe or support you, we do. We will love you and we will fight for you. #SurvivorLoveLetter."
In addition to the virtual love letters to survivors, many folks opted to make physical Valentine's Day cards that they posted on social media. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) shared heart-shaped Valentine's with messages like "You are enough," and "You are strong, brave, and resilient."
The "Survivor Love Letter" hashtag is such an important show of solidarity for all the survivors who have disclosed their trauma during the #MeToo movement, Time's up, and those who told their story long before it was safer to share. Survivors deal with so much retraumatization and victim blaming in our society, often not believed or belittled for their experiences. Publicly sharing your support for those who have lived through sexual assault can be healing for survivors, and make all the difference in their recovery.