From the Founder:
When your life is forever changed by sexual violence, where can you turn? Who can help you? What are the words you need to hear most?
In 2006, the “me too.” Movement was founded by survivor and activist Tarana Burke. In those early years, we developed our vision to bring resources, support, and pathways to healing where none existed before. And we got to work building a community of advocates determined to interrupt sexual violence wherever it happens.
In 2017, the #metoo hashtag went viral and woke up the world to the magnitude of the problem of sexual violence. What had begun as local grassroots work had now become a global movement — seemingly overnight. Within a six-month span, our message reached a global community of survivors. Suddenly there were millions of people from all walks of life saying “me too”. And they needed our help.
Today, our work continues to focus on assisting a growing spectrum of survivors — young people, queer, trans, the disabled, Black women and girls, and all communities of color. We’re here to help each individual find the right point of entry for their unique healing journey. But we’re also galvanizing a broad base of survivors, and working to disrupt the systems that allow sexual violence to proliferate in our world. This includes insisting upon accountability on the part of perpetrators, along with the implementation of strategies to sustain long term, systemic change. So that one day, nobody ever has to say “me too” again.
The ‘me too’ Movement™ started in the deepest, darkest place in my soul.
As a youth worker, dealing predominately with Black children and children of color, I had seen and heard my share of heartbreaking stories — from broken homes to abusive or neglectful parents — when I met Heaven.
During an all-girl bonding session at our youth camp, several of the girls in the room shared intimate stories about their lives. Some were the ordinary tales of teenage joys and anxieties, but others were quite painful. Just as I had done so many times before, I sat and listened to the stories, and comforted the girls as needed. When it was over, the adults advised the young women to reach out to us if they ever needed to talk, or if they needed anything else. Then we went our separate ways.
The next day, Heaven — who had been in the previous night’s session — asked to speak with me in private. I knew Heaven as a sweet-faced little girl who clung to me throughout the camp. However, her hyperactive and often anger-filled behavior betrayed both her name and the light, high-pitched voice with which she spoke. I was always having to pull her out of some type of situation.
As she attempted to talk to me that day, the look in her eyes told me this conversation would be anything but ordinary. She had a deep sadness and a yearning for confession that I read immediately. And I wanted no part of it.
Finally, later in the day, she caught up with me and almost begged me to listen. I reluctantly conceded, and for the next several minutes this child, Heaven, in a halting voice, told me about her “stepdaddy” — rather, her mother’s boyfriend — who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body. I was horrified by her words, and the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut.
I listened until I literally could not take it anymore — which turned out to be less than five minutes. Then, right in the middle of Heaven sharing her pain with me, I cut off this little girl’s story and directed her to another female counselor who I believed could “help her better”.
I will never forget the look on Heaven’s face.
I will never forget, because it haunts me, still. I think about her all the time. The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced shut again – it was all on that precious little face. But I wasn’t ready to help. As much as I love children, as much as I cared about that child, I did not yet possess her courage.
As much as I loved her, I could not muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain. I couldn’t help her release her shame, or impress upon her that none of it was her fault. But most of all, I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again.
I just watched her walk away from me, visibly struggling to recapture those secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her “mask” back on her face and return to the world. And as I stood there, I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper the words circling my mind and soul: “me too”.
– Tarana Burke
Founder, The ‘me too.’ Movement