Rape makes you feel incredibly alone. When your body is attacked, the only place to retreat is deep inside yourself. The irony is that by protecting yourself in this way – protecting your body from any more pain or violence – you cut yourself off from love, which is the whole of the journey back.
In college, I wanted a visual way to communicate love to survivors and an easy way for friends and supporters to make their love known. One year, as part of Brown University’s annual Take Back the Night, I organized the Heart Display Project. For a week, I sat in the post office with art supplies and invited people to write messages of hope and love for survivors of sexual assault. At the event, we displayed the hearts in a powerful visual. The hearts were so moving, in fact, that I have kept them for 15 years.
Recently, my husband (an amazing photographer) and I came across Project Unbreakable, a powerful way of demonstrating the crime of sexual assault and the courage of its victims. We were both incredibly moved by the faces and voices captured, and wanted to find a way to lovingly respond.
Even for the most compassionate of souls, we often find ourselves at a loss for words. Or maybe you had a friend you didn’t realize had been assaulted until long after the fact. What do you wish you had said at the time? Was there something you didn’t have the courage to say? What do you wish that person knew? If you are a survivor yourself, what do you wish someone had said to you when you felt most alone?
So Marc and I decided to bring back the heart display – in an online medium – on this blog. Rape may make you feel alone, but there is plenty of love out there to bring you back. Heartspoken is about speaking from the heart, and wearing that voice publicly for the benefit of others.
Here is how it works. Cut out a heart. Write a message of hope. It doesn’t need to be poetry or sublime. You don’t need to have good handwriting. Just speak from the heart. Send us your photograph at firstname.lastname@example.org – or contact us and my husband will photograph you if you live near us or where we plan to travel. If your heart is for a specific person or if you have a story that goes along with your heart, please tell us and we will tell your story here on this blog.
Let your heart speak!