Like many sexual assault survivors, Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, is still trying to process the fact that Brett Kavanaugh has joined the Supreme Court despite multiple accusations of sexual assault.
“Since Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I think it’s been difficult,” Burke shares with Yahoo Lifestyle. “People feel collective disappointment and frustration with the government. I want to take care of people because we’re so hurt. We need a collective breath as well.”
She adds: “So many people have had the wind knocked out of them by this. And then we’re facing a government that doesn’t care,” referring to sexual assault survivors.
Burke calls Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, “beyond brave” for coming forward and publicly sharing what happened to her. “She showed us what a hero actually looks like. Her coming forward is bigger than the Supreme Court,” says Burke, who attended the hearings, along with her friend, actress Alyssa Milano.
She says that even though the end result doesn’t feel like a victory for many people, she believes Ford has still accomplished something important. “What she has done is so freeing for so many survivors around the world who are poised to tell their story,” Burke says, “who want to come forward and release this thing from holding them hostage.”
Burke, who is partnering with Lifetime’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, which is dedicated to raising awareness and empowering women, has been advocating for victims of sexual violence for years. She is credited with coining the term “me too” back in 2006, after her own experience of sexual assault. She wanted to create a space where survivors can voice their experiences and get support.
“What inspired me to start the #MeToo movement was working with young girls who always had stories of sexual violence,” she shares. “It was important to create something that would allow these girls at least to feel like whole people again and to feel like their life wasn’t defined by these things.”
She continues: “Seeing so many people whose lives have been impacted by #MeToo and by this past year of the movement growing has been phenomenal.”
But Burke also has concerns. Addressing what often happens when women come forward about sexual assault, she worries that it has “created this narrative about women that we’re liars, that we’re all after something, that if you would disparage a man that you must be up to something.”
Along with sexual assault victims not being believed, Burke also worries about what some people get wrong about the #MeToo movement. “I worry about the people who think it’s only about Hollywood,” referring to powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, who was brought down by the #MeToo movement and has since been arrested on rape charges. “I worry about the narrative that we now have coming out of the government that says it’s a war against men. Those are really dangerous narratives because it’s just not true.”
This divisive narrative is creating a rift, she says, rather than building allies, which Burke feels is particularly important with men, “when collectively what we’re talking about are people — men, women, and people across the gender spectrum who are coming to terms with and finding a space to talk about really traumatic events in their lives,” she says. “That is cathartic for both the people and for our country.”
She adds: “We need to talk about this. We need to look at the depth and breadth of sexual violence in this country because it affects so many different areas of our lives.”
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