Tarana Burke, the activist who started the #MeToo movement more than a decade ago, says that the movement’s viral eruption in 2017 was a dream come true — but that #MeToo’s sudden popularity has tipped it off course and served to distract from the real focus of the movement: survivors of sexual abuse.
“What actually happened on October 15  was people raised their hands to say, ‘Me too,’” Burke told The Cut. “They opened up and said, ‘Yeah this happened to me.’ And it was millions of people from all walks of life, every stripe, and I really feel like those people still have their hands up.”
“There are things coming to fruition right now that I scribbled down in a notebook 10 years ago. That feels incredible, and a little bit like a fairy tale. Albeit an odd, social justice fairy tale,” she continued. “Coming up on the one-year anniversary of #MeToo going viral, for me it is really about letting the world see the work we have been doing for the last year — the groundwork we’ve been laying and the team we’ve been building to accommodate the need that has come out of the viral moment. The need already existed, but the viral moment just amplified it. There’s been so much talk and focus on individual perpetrators and salacious stories and very little conversation about the women who actually said #MeToo.”
Despite the huge surge in interest in women’s stories of sexual assault, she said, the media have mainly focused on the stories surrounding the rich and powerful, while critics, and even some allies of the movement began painting #MeToo as “a gender war … for white, cisgender, hetoresexual famous women.” Burke, who began her work with survivors of sexual assault by leading healing circles in New York and Alabama in 1998, says that she has a three part plan to refocus the movement toward helping survivors. To start, Burke has launched the website metoomvmt.org, which provides resources for victims of assault. Next, she plans to launch survivor leadership-training programs to create a pool of qualified leaders who can start their own survivor-support programs.
Her end goal, Burke says, is to see the healing circles she started two decades ago become an institutionalized resource for survivors across the country. That support, she said, makes a huge difference in people’s lives. And increased awareness and education about sexual assault, she explained, would also make a difference “in the number of sexual assaults that we see.”
“That difference,” she said, “is really everything.”
Watch her interview with The Cut below.
Read the full story at The Cut.