Tarana Burke, a three-time survivor of sexual assault, is on a mission to end sexual violence against women

Why She’s a MAKER: The declaration, “Me too,” first used as a tool of support by Burke, has now become a unified battle cry for women and men who have experienced sexual abuse or assault, catalyzing an unprecedented worldwide movement.

Not so Black and White: Growing up in the Bronx, Tarana Burke had a childhood enriched with black American culture. From lessons in Swahili to the writings of Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, Burke was ingrained with a strong sense of the beauty — and injustices — that came with being a woman of color in the U.S. “I grew up not being able to say the Pledge of Allegiance. My grandfather was adamant about that: ‘You will not pledge allegiance to a country that has no allegiance to you.’ “

Brave Hearts: In 1997, Tarana Burke was working with 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement when a 13-year-old girl revealed to her that she had been sexually abused. The teen’s admission resurfaced trauma from Burke’s own experience with sexual abuse. “She had brought up all this stuff that I was not dealing with. She had found whatever courage she needed to come forward and say this to me, and the nagging thing in my brain was that this happened to me, too.”

Don’t Stop Believing: From that point onward, Burke, a three-time survivor of sexual assault, began her lifelong mission to end sexual violence against women, focusing in particular on young women of color from low-income communities. “The idea that somebody who you look up to believes you, that's a very small thing to ask, you know? And just a simple act of believing her changed everything.” The simple truth, she says, is where power lies. “The way you dismantle those power structures is by truth. That whole idea of speaking truth to power comes from the idea that the more truth that you tell, the less power people have to lord over you.”

Making Connections: According to Burke, women saying “me too” has done more than start a movement against sexual misconduct— it’s given survivors a community and connection like never before. “The words ‘me too’ are so simple. But the underpinning of it is that I agree with you, I am with you, I understand you and I'm connected to you.”