#MeToo Founder and Survivor Tarana Burke Says “Healing is an Eternal Process”

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Four years after the explosive revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, women around the world have become activists to identify and end sexual harassment, abuse and violence against women.

It all started with a simple hashtag #MeToo – but the phrase was used a decade earlier by American activist Tarana Burke.

She says at 7:30 a.m. that she woke up to find that the #MeToo hashtag was being used online at the end of 2017, and that she feared her life’s work had been stolen.

“It was very scary for me,” she says.

“I had worked… in the community with marginalized people. And so it wasn’t something that seemed to be part of anything to do with my work.

Women from all over the world shared their experiences following the #MeToo movement. (Getty: Seung-il Ryu)

“As a black woman in America, I have seen my fair share of discrimination and prejudice and, quite frankly, racism. I have seen black women take a back seat and our voices go unheard.

“And I didn’t see how it would be possible for people to believe that I did this job under the same name, you know, the same way.”

Burke says that despite her initial fears, she realized that the platform created by the hashtag could help more women.

“It wasn’t about taking something away from me. It was actually a gift that was given to me. And I was able to fit in and contribute, rather than complaining about what ‘I was taken. “

She says the reaction to #MeToo revealed that women from all walks of life have one thing in common: Sexual harassment and abuse is non-discriminatory.

Three photographs of women;  on the left with long blond hair, in the middle with short black hair, on the right with long black hair.
Rosanna Arquette, Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were some of the prominent voices of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood.(Reuters / AP / Reuters)

“What I learned was that these Hollywood women and famous and rich people… needed the same things that little black girls in Selma, Alabama, needed,” she says.

“They needed to be seen and heard and needed an outlet.

“They had to be validated, they had to be believed and that’s what #MeToo gave them.

“We know [about] #MeToo because 12 million people responded to this hashtag in 24 hours. And the vast majority of those 12 million people were ordinary people. “

“Healing is an eternal process”

Burke herself is a survivor, and she reveals in her new memoir Unbound that while being center stage is rewarding, it can sometimes take its toll.

“I think it’s a double-edged sword because very few high profile people, very visible people, have been known as crusaders for this problem,” she says.

“This means that people who have experienced sexual violence have had no one to turn to in the public eye… there haven’t been many champions.

“So I feel a sense of responsibility to be someone, you know, that I know, when I meet a survivor on the street, they know I’m someone who understands them. And so I want to stay that way. anybody.

Tarana Burke, an African American woman speaking at a rally while wearing a t-shirt that says
Activist Tarana Burke started using the phrase “Me Too” in 2006.(Provided)

“But I’m also a human being. And I’m still healing because healing is an eternal process.

“It’s about all the trauma you went through in the days that followed. It’s about people who can’t turn off the lights and people who can’t leave their homes and are afraid to wear some. clothes.

“It’s all about the violence we carry and the trauma we carry afterwards.”

Teaching consent and limitations

Burke believes that in order to create real change, we need to teach children about consent from an early age.

“If you can teach children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and not to run with scissors, then you can teach them healthy boundaries, not to touch people without their consent,” says -she.

“These are really simple ideas. If we take that root in our kids at a very young age and layer it year after year. [in a way] it’s age appropriate, and then we have young people coming into adults who understand that consent, and bodily autonomy or human rights.

“We raise our children believing that all adults around them have authority and that adult knowledge is absolute.

“For example, when we go on vacation, we visit other people and say, ‘Go kiss your aunt, go kiss your uncle’ – or even a family friend.

“I think we’re doing something sinister and bad with it, and because sexual violence isn’t about sex, so talking to kids about protecting themselves isn’t sexual. It’s about respect. , it’s a question of limits. “

Prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse

Burke says that when she started this job, she clearly remembers an incident that showed her just how widespread sexual assault and abuse really is.

Tarana Burke, in a long, light blue dress, speaks on stage at a TED talk.
Tarana Burke says that as a survivor she is still healing. (Flicker: TED Talk)

“I remember being in a classroom when we first started using the term ‘Me too’,” she says.

“We had done a workshop, we gave each of the girls in the class – about 60 girls maybe – a piece of post-it and we said to them, ‘Tell us three things that we learned in class. And if you are a survivor of sexual violence, write “Me too” if you like, if you feel obligated. “

“We did it so that no one was singled out.

“I always thought that this job would be for children, for young people. And I had adult women from all over the country who reached out to me and said, ‘Thank you for starting this, how can- do I bring this to my hometown?

“And I thought, we’re on to something that’s so important and so necessary, [and] bigger than I ever imagined.

“What we need to understand is the history of sexual violence. The history of sexual violence is that when people, especially women, bring an accusation or a disclosure, they tend not to be. believed at the time of disclosure.

“When people say ‘I believe her’, it means taking it seriously. Don’t shut the person down.”

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