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MeToo ~ Safe Spaces for Marginalized Girls

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The rallying cry #MeToo has amplified the testimonials of women abused at the hands of powerful men. That language first emerged without a hashtag in an era before Twitter had soared full-throttle. Tarana Burke, a survivor of sexual abuse and the founder of Just Be, Inc., coined Me Too 11 years ago. Her goal was to provide a safe community for marginalized Black and Brown girls who carry the additional burdens of racial and economic inequities. CommPassions sat down with Burke a week before she was hailed among ‘TIME’s Person of the Year’ to explore the landscape invoked by MeToo then and now.
Q: How has the flurry of attention affected the #MeToo campaign that you started?


A:   It’s been helpful; it’s the same work we do. We launched this movement in 2006. So it’s a boost for the movement. The Me Too hashtag wasn’t the campaign. But we definitely view this as a positive development. This is bigger than anything we ever experienced.


Q: Do you think Black women have been erased (or hardly visible) in the movement around sexual harassment and sexual misconduct?


A:   This moment is predicated on movements around rich white actresses going public and that’s why the focus has been on rich white women. When Black women come forward, they’re not believed. This reinforces the belief that we as Black women hold: America responds to the vulnerability of white women first.


Q: Some say the daily drumbeat exposing sexual predators is getting ‘over the top’ and creating public-fatigue on the topic. Your thoughts?


A:   We’ve experienced less than two months of people coming forward. These women have been shamed and silenced for years, for decades. And now people say they’re fatigued by the revelations? We’re tired of being sexually violated for years. People are trained to think in news cycles. So this is new for some people, but this is a reality. And it’s a reality we have to adjust to.


Q: Do you have any advice or recommendations for people who want to become more actively engaged.


A:   For a lot of people, because the #MeToo hash campaign rose on the internet and people responded so quickly this seems like something that should change in an instant. And unfortunately this work will remain, it will be with us. So while there is this moment of urgency to attend to the survivors who need and deserve our support, let’s do all we can to address sexual assault.


The ‘me too’ movement is rolling out information that we hope will build on this moment to engage greater public support and action. But no one has to wait to get active. You can volunteer at local rape crisis centers. You can research groups in your area who are supporting survivors and fighting the rape culture. There are so many organizations that need human and material support.  The alarm has been sounded by MeToo – whether you are a survivor of sexual assault or not – to step up and get involved in change.


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