May 7, 2020

Share your #SurvivorLoveLetters during Sexual Violence Awareness Month

UCalgary calls to honour the lives and experiences of sexual violence survivors with virtual Dear Survivor campaign

Over the past month, increased attention has been paid to the risk of domestic violence caused by isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, UToday covered the complexities of this risk with several experts, shedding important light on how victims can continue to access support.

Here on campus, Carla Bertsch, UCalgary’s sexual violence support adviser, wants the UCalgary community to know that help for students, faculty and staff is still available. “Like other community agencies, we are seeing a decline in the number of folks reaching out for support. There could be a number of reasons for this. But we want to make sure the UCalgary community knows we are here to support anyone who has been impacted by sexualized violence, which includes dating or domestic violence.”

The current situation is exceptional, but Bertsch emphasises that even during normal circumstances, sexual violence is prevalent. According to a study by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, 43 to 45 per cent of Albertans have experienced some type of sexual violence in their lifetime (1.8 million in total). That’s almost one in every two.

#SurvivorLoveLetters

To keep this important conversation going, May was proclaimed Sexual Violence Awareness Month in Alberta, and this year, we are proud to launch a virtual version of UCalgary’s Dear Survivor campaign in partnership with Mount Royal University and Bow Valley College.

The Dear Survivor campaign was inspired by filmmaker and activist Tani Ikeda. As a survivor of sexual violence, Ikeda imagined what it would be like to wake up one day and see supportive messages instead of being treated like a statistic. On the anniversary of her sexual assault in 2012, she took the idea to social media, encouraging survivors and allies alike to share uplifting messages through the hashtag #SurvivorLoveLetter.

For a second year, UCalgary’s Dear Survivor campaign aims to honour the lives and experiences of survivors in our communities. “This campaign allows us to reach out to survivors or anyone impacted by sexualized violence and share a note or letter that offers support, hope, encouragement, and love,” says Bertsch. “Often people who have been impacted by sexual or gender-based violence are met with misbelief or blamed somehow for contributing to the violence. This is an opportunity to flip the script and let survivors know that we believe and stand with them.”

To share your message of hope and courage for survivors, simply write your message on the Sexual Violence Support website. A selection of messages will be curated in the coming weeks and shared over the UCalgary social media channels at the end of the month.

If you think you have experienced sexual violence, or know someone who has, visit the Sexual Violence Support website for campus and community resources. You can also arrange a confidential consultation with the university’s sexual violence support advocates, by confidential email