We first met in an acting class in Los Angeles. The class was close-knit; we rehearsed together most days and hung out outside of class. We gave each other rides to and from class, brought food on other classmates’ birthdays, and knew details of each other’s personal lives. The class’s instructor was like a mentor and father figure to us, sort of the class “patriarch.” We felt like a family.
All of that was shattered one day when Ugenia was rehearsing for an audition with our acting instructor. This man, who we trusted to nurture our talent in a safe space, completely betrayed our trust when he sexually assaulted Ugenia during this rehearsal, under the guise of helping her to “open” up sexually for the role. Ugenia had the courage to open up to Sarah and another close friend about the incident, and together we reported the crime to the police, and opened a case with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
The path to healing has not been easy; situations like these bring about so much hurt, anger, and pain. However, it brought us closer together as friends, and helped us discover our individual and collective strength and tenacity. Both of us were able to find healing through art, which ultimately led us to co-found a production company, FWIN Productions, which focuses on telling stories about strong, diverse women.
In early February, we were introduced to the Survivor Love Letter campaign, which has the goal of bringing about healing in the face of sexual assault, and immediately felt drawn to it.
Through this social media campaign, participants can post to any social media outlet a photo of a letter they’ve written to themselves. This letter can be written as a survivor of sexual assault, or as a loved one who knows of others who have experienced sexual assault. We contacted this year’s spokesperson to see how we could help, and she entrusted us to take charge of the movement to carry it to its full potential.
#MeToo gave us the incredible chance to become more aware of the stark prevalence and associated risks associated with sexual assault, and we think the next step is a campaign of healing. It’s an inclusive movement for everyone – not just those who have been sexually assaulted, but for anyone who’s known someone who’s been sexually assaulted, or been affected by sexual assault in any way, shape or form.
The founder of the movement, Tani Ikeda, writes that “Survivor Love Letter enables us to talk about what survivorship really looks like. Through this growing collection of love letters, maybe we can build strategies for the ways we heal ourselves and our communities. I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal.”
If you’re drawn to this campaign, here’s how you can help:
1. Before Valentine’s Day post the flyer below to raise awareness about the movement. Include a comment that encourages people to retweet and to join the campaign, something like, “This Valentine’s Day, I’m writing a love letter to myself (or a loved one) to promote healing in the face of sexual assault. Retweet to spread the message and join me by posting your own letter on February 14th!”
- On Valentine’s Day (Wednesday, February 14th) at 9AM Pacific Standard Time, post your photo or video to your social media page along with the hashtag #survivorloveletter. You don’t have to use names – it can simply be addressed “Dear Survivor.”
- Spread the word! The campaign does not stop on Valentine’s Day. We want as many people as possible to be a part of this, so please share this campaign with your friends and loved ones.
If you’d like to share more or ask us any questions, you can reach Sarah at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and contact Ugenia Stokes at (email@example.com).