‘Me too’ founder shares her story


Craig Kohlruss/Fresno Bee/TNS

Tarana Burke, a founder of the #MeToo movement, speaks during a public event about empowerment and advocacy at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.

Amara Gobermann, Managing Editor

Not many people know that the nationwide end to sexual violence movement ‘me too’, was started by a black women named Tarana Burke. On March 4 she was here in Madison and spoke at the Memorial Union.

As I walked in, Burke was telling her story of a young women she met. She was young, white, and in a sorority, which was a very different life experience than Burke’s.

This young woman went through an assault and it became very public, and many people were so mean to her thinking she was trying to destroy the football team.

Burke expressed how she completely empathized with the hard time she was going through. “Should we do something?” Burke would ask her friends, but their response would be it’s not their business.

She listened to her friends and let it go even though it sat with her spirit. Burke is a strong woman but at the time that strength was not with her yet. She knew this was a problem but she wasn’t sure what kind of problem it should be addressed as.

“I was starting to realize that sexual violence was a deeply pervasive issue but I was still struggling with this being a social justice issue,” said Burke.

Burke was involved in leadership camps every year, she would attend and eventually started leading them. In the program they had a day called sister to sister and brother to brother, and every year there would be at least one girl who opened up about some type of sexual violence.

“I never told, because I came from a family where the number one rule is our business is our business.” Burke admits. But hearing others stories was very emotional for Burke and she felt these other girls pain.

She explained her struggle with finding the right words to say to a girl, who she calls Heaven. She opened up about her sexual violence story to Burke, and she had no words for her. She started to think about what she could do and why she felt so compassionate for this girl,

Burke explained “the reason why you are familiar to me, and the reason why your energy is something that I know of, and the reason why I knew exactly what she was going to say when she found me was because that was me too.”

Before “me too” was created, Burke decided she wanted to specifically work with girls and created ‘just be Inc.’ They started in 2003 as a rights of passage program for leadership, for black and brown girls in the community she was involved in at the time.

When they gathered young girls and had time for them to share their experiences, they counted how many times they said a violent act happened to them. Burke wanted to take her experiences and use them to make a difference in young women’s lives.

Her goal is to make sure that girls of color know how to verbalize what has happened to them. So here we are with “me too” two years in, and more women are starting to share their experiences.