PRINCETON, Illinois -- Valentine's Day can be a difficult time for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.
The Freedom House shelter in Princeton has been reminding its residents and other survivors that they are worthy of love, displaying Valentines made by kids from the community and local churches up and down its hallways.
"It's just an overwhelming outpouring of care and support that they just don't feel on a day-to-day basis," said Amber Killian, the center's Domestic Violence Program Manager. "And then also along the wall are pictures that the staff have printed out to show the different types of love that exist in the world besides just romantic love."
One picture depicts a man feeding a homeless person, while another shows two women hugging and holding hands. Counselors said they hoped the display would help make residents feel that they could play a part in the Valentine's Day celebration in many other ways.
"On days like today we encourage survivors to surround themselves with family and friends that are a good support system," said Stacey Hoffman-Rosalez, the Sexual Violence Program Manager at the Freedom House. "We talk to them about sharing love, and that they are worthy of love."
Counselors also recommend that people create new traditions for themselves on Valentine's Day to help them overcome difficult experiences from the past. For many, the holiday means buying gifts, exchanging cards, and going out to eat.
"Just because you don't have someone in your life doesn't mean you can't do those things for yourself," said Hoffman-Rosalez.
STANDING BY SURVIVORS -- April 6th at Lavender Crest Winery in Colona
Freedom House's fundraising gala -- featuring Special Guest Speakers -- will be a night of celebration, awards, food and drink, live music by Blood Orange Band, and dancing. For more information visit http://www.freedomhouseillinois.org