#MeToo founder addresses the movement

When Tarana Burke stood in front of her audience to set the record straight, she made it clear that she was an ordinary woman from Bronx, New York.

The topic she discussed on April 6 in Schaible Auditorium surrounded the #MeToo movement. Men who are survivors of sexual violence have reached out to Burke and voiced hesitation in using the hashtag in fear of taking it away from women.

“It isn’t a woman’s movement. It’s your movement. It’s our movement. It is a survivors movement. You are in it if you say you’re in it,” Burke said.

Statistics covering transgender and non-binary people are less likely to be promoted or researched Burke noted

“Women also report more,” Burke continued. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey discussed in a 2011 article published by The New York Times, one in every five women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. There is also an equivalent of one in every six men (1in6.org). These statistics do not take non-binary or transgender people into account.

She began organizing and protesting at fourteen years old in 1989 where she rallied against President Donald Trump surrounding the Central Park jogger case.

The case involved the 1989 sexual assault of a white female jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park. Five teenagers, four of whom were black and one who was latino, were falsely accused of sexual assault and later proven innocent. President Donald Trump said that they were guilty and called for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York state, an assertion he maintained during the 2016 electoral season. DNA evidence that cleared all five men of their convictions turned up in 2002. Organizing for this specific protest became a catalyst for her identity in human rights activism.

Burke used her time as Schaible Auditorium to explain that she founded the #MeToo movement with one objective in mind: the healing of sexual violence survivors. It began during Burkes time as a camp counselor during a healing circle where teens started to voice personal stories ranging from intimate to violent. The next day Burke was approached by a girl in private, who began to confess to multiple instances of trauma involving her mother’s boyfriend. Burke stated that, although she had her own story, she could not be the comforting space that the child was looking for.

It was after this experience that Burke began working to fill gaps in structures for sexual violence survivors to receive support. In 2003 she co-founded Jendayi Aza, an African-centered rites of passage program for women that eventually evolved into the Just Be Inc. in 2006. The #MeToo movement arose within these programs as Burke continued to observe that sexual violence was a shared experience among a substantial amount of women. Twelve years later, it has received celebrity traction and become a catalyst for millions of conversations surrounding all levels of sexual violence.

During her talk Burke discussed misrepresentations that media outlets have attributed to the movement portraying it as a “witch hunt.” Its purpose, according to Burke, is not to focus on the perpetrators, but to empower survivors of sexual violence with the simple statement “me too.” This is to form solidarity and safe spaces for survivors to share their stories.

The movements attachment to sexual predators such as Harvey Weinstein, distracts the public from its original goal, which Burke said is empowerment through empathy. Burke’s current goal includes refocusing the movement back to this goal and to further assist survivors in beginning the process of healing.

For more information on Tarana Burke and to get involved with the #MeToo movement, readers can visit: https://metoomvmt.org/ or follow @TaranaBurke on twitter. For more information on events being hosted by the Nanook Diversity and Action Center, interested parties can email uaf-ndac@alaska.edu or visit https://uaf.edu/ndac/