Lehigh Valley

#MeToo movement founder speaks at Lafayette College

EASTON, Pa. - Tarana Burke, the social justice activist credited with founding the #MeToo movement, spoke at Lafayette College on Wednesday evening where she called for sexual assault survivors and allies to band together and take the reigns of a movement designed to help heal the trauma experienced by survivors of sexual violence.

Burke, who has spent more than 25 years working as an activist, looked to dispel myths about the #MeToo movement while also encouraging attendees to work to foster an environment that ends rape culture across the globe.

Since rapidly spreading across social media beginning in 2017, the #MeToo movement has prompted many individuals, especially women, to speak out about sexual violence they have experienced. Burke said that the movement is often inaccurately viewed as one that strives to take down powerful men — one that is sometimes referred to as a “witch hunt.”

“The popular narrative about what the #MeToo movement is, is very different than what we’re talking about right here. There are so many misconceptions going around that we are really in danger of missing a unique historical opportunity,” Burke told the crowd at Lafayette College’s Colton Chapel.

Burke said the movement is about “healing individuals and healing communities.” 

“It’s about the collective trauma that people around this country — around this world — are holding, and the collective responsibility we have to do something about it,” she said.

One of the most powerful tools that the #MeToo movement has at their disposal, Burke said, is language. She told the audience that in the past she ran language workshops to help people better understand and discuss sexual violence. Burke said the power of language is what made the #MeToo hashtag so effective when the #MeToo movement started gaining traction in October 2017.

“We take for granted that people know how to talk about the things that happen to them. We take for granted that people have the wherewithal to talk about the things that happened to them,” Burke said. “That’s why the two words are so important. The two words are important because you can leave them right where they are. If I’m somebody who has the same experience, I don’t need more information. That’s all the information I need.”

To conclude her remarks, Burke encouraged others to take action and continue upon the progress made by the movement. She admitted that she can’t do it alone, and that a collective group of individuals can help strengthen the voice of sexual violence survivors.

“I need you to take ownership because, alone, I can stand up and I can scream into the wind about what we really are, but imagine if we were screaming together. Imagine how our voices would amplify together,” she said. “Let’s work together, let’s heal together, and if you all are ready to do that work along with me, I can only leave you with these two words: me too.”

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