Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, came to campus on Oct. 3 to share her experience as a survivor of sexual abuse and what makes Me Too special to her and survivors across the nation. The event was sponsored by the Joe Crowley Student Union, Nevada Cares and the Panhellenic Council on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Growing up in the Bronx, Burke explained, she was surrounded by activism and was aware her family is what people today would call “left leaning”. She attributes the ability to spot injustice in social aspects because of her upbringing.
After graduating college, Burke began working with 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. Once there, she became close to a girl she referred to as Heaven, for privacy reasons.
Burke said Heaven sat across from her after a “Sister to Sister, Brother to Brother” session, meant to discuss anything personal in a safe space, and described details of her seuxal abuse from her mother’s boyfriend. From that moment Burke said that is where ‘Me Too’ started.
“As I listened to [Heaven] I was thinking ‘I’m not a therapist. I don’t want to say the wrong thing.’” Burke said. “What was really ringing in the back of my head was this happened to me too.”
After working with 21st Century Burkes started a Me Too workshop program at a local junior high school in Selma, Ala. The workshops included the same sessions as the one used at 21st Century.
Burke said every session the girls would begin discussing school issues and transitioned to revealing sexual assaults. What bothered Burke was the girls discussed their assaults as if it were a normal conversation.
The problem, according to Burke, is the girls at the junior high school did not have the appropriate language skills to explain what was right and wrong, and without appropriate language, there cannot be healing. Burke connected this idea to today’s society where survivors cannot express their stories because they do not know how.
Wanting to expand the movement, Burke created a MySpace Page. She said women reached out and asked for workshops to be brought to their area.
Since the expansion the movement grew to a hashtag that went viral in 2017 after the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations, according to the Associated Press. Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexually assaulting and harrassing various women, including actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.
Burke explained that in 24 hours of the allegations coming out, 12 million people commented, posted and reacted to the hashtag Me Too on Facebook on Oct. 15, 2017.
Burke transitioned and addressed how society has not asked three questions and where the media has not addressed the issue properly.
“How did this happen? How do we stop it? How do we make sure we never end up here again?,” Burke asked. “We have not answered those questions yet. This is and international phenomenon, and we have yet to see the investigative journalism report about the widespread nature of sexual violence in America.”
She said that due to lack of properly addressing sexual assault it has led to misconceptions about the meaning of the movement and is used as take down powerful men. She called for students to not take advantage of Me Too, but use it as a tool to help survivors.
Burke later empathized with men, saying patriarchy has created a society where masculinity is expressed by taking and subjecting what they want. She explained that has harmed men that they cannot be in an environment without being seen as “neanderthals.”
Burke finally addressed administrators asking them to think about how they address the issue of sexual violence in the classroom, fraternity accusations and accusations against teachers.
Burke encouraged students to stand up and demand change if nothing is being done to help sexual assault survivors and further said students deserve to feel safe on campus.
Andrew Mendez can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.