Courtesy of girltalkhq.com
By Taylor Baker
Tarana Burke was working at a youth camp in New York when a teenage girl confided in her that she had been sexually assaulted by her stepfather. Burke found herself unable to help the girl, instead having to point her in the direction of somebody more qualified. This situation is what inspired Burke to begin what is now known as the #MeToo Movement.
“I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone,” writes Burke, in the letter of intent located on the official #MeToo website. “And I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper, ‘me too’.”
In 2006, Burke began using the phrase ‘me too’ in an effort to help build a healing community for sexual assault survivors of color, particularly in low-wealth areas. The original curriculum was created to start discussions within the African-American community and to generate support from a society that is looking to generate better options for survivors of sexual assault.
Actress Alyssa Milano brought mainstream attention to the hashtag ‘#MeToo’ after film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual abuse by multiple women within the industry. Through Twitter, Milano encouraged other celebrities to share their stories of misconduct in Hollywood, which ultimately gained the movement international attention. This generated a greater acceptance of the phrase by the general public, often attributed to moments when a survivor may come forward to tell their story of harassment or assault.
“What started as local grassroots work has expanded to reach a global community of survivors from all walks of life,” Burke said about the recent attention #MeToo has attracted.
She also commented that it has “helped to de-stigmatize the act of surviving by highlighting the breadth and impact of a sexual violence worldwide.”
The lack of conversations regarding sexual violence can negatively affect its victims, who may face anything from victimization to post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other issues that may affect their ability to live day-to-day. These stigmas continue to make it harder for victims who will often begin to blame themselves for what has happened as opposed to obtaining the help that they so rightfully deserve.
“Refusing to face the reality of it in our workplaces and communities allows for it to be defined as a secondary importance,” says Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) Title IX Director, Paul Alexander. “It cannot be eradicated if it is not discussed openly.”
It is never an easy thing for a survivor to come forward and share their story, but in doing so it provides support for other victims of abuse.
“I hoped going to the police would encourage other women or men to speak up,” said 4Cs alumni Emily Clark. “I did not [initially] go to authorities because I believed that person would change their actions and learn. When it happened again, I knew it was the right thing to do because I thought it would deter [my assailant] from doing it in the future.”
She claims that these incidents became part of her daily thoughts and emotions, inadvertently becoming part of her identity. The first time she was assaulted, she was hesitant to go to the police due to fears of self-blame and shame. With counseling and through meeting with other survivors, she was able to heal, and it helped her to realize that she is not just a victim of these actions and that it doesn’t define her.
“I’m so much more,” Clark stated.
While the movement hasn’t solved the issue of sexual violence, it has brought major attention to the issue through helping survivors speak up about their stories. When she founded this movement, Burke had no idea that her mission would go beyond her initial intentions of helping those in her own community. Since then, #MeToo has spread into a global community of survivors who can now connect with each other to help heal and make sure that every victim feels that they are being heard.