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“Me Too” inspires sexual assault victims to share their stories

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On Oct. 15, actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet in response to recent sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Milano called on all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to post ‘Me Too’ to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” On Oct. 16, Milano released a tweet crediting activist Tarana Burke with creating ‘Me Too’ with a link to Just Be Inc.’s website.

The phrase, ‘Me Too,’ was originally created by Burke on MySpace in 2006. It was used primarily among women of color who had survived sexual assault. In 1996, Burke was a youth worker, dealing largely with children of color. The day after an all-girl bonding session at Burke’s youth camp, one child approached Burke and asked to speak with her privately. This is how Burke describes the encounter on her Just Be website.

“For the next several minutes this child … struggled to tell me about her “stepdaddy” or rather her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body…I was horrified by her words, the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut, and I listened until I literally could not take it anymore…which turned out to be less than 5 minutes. Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counselor who could ‘help her better.’ I will never forget the look on her face.

“The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced closed again—it was all on her face. And as much as I love children, as much as I cared about that child, I could not find the courage that she had found. 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 nothing that happened to her was her fault. I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured… I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper…me too.”

Thus, a phrase was born and eventually a movement created.

Since Milano reintroduced the phrase, millions of women and some men have used the hashtag to share their stories. With all of this momentum, the question seems to be “What now?” Experts say the movement represents a revolution. On the days following Milano’s tweet, it seemed more women than not came forward with their ‘Me Too’s and accompanying stories. The hashtag went global. Survivors stepped forward for the first time. Social media feeds were flooded with the simple phrase, ‘Me Too.’ ‘Me Too’ is a continuation of an important discussion on a much larger scale. It is hoped by normalizing discussion of sexual assualt that survivors will continue to feel comfortable enough to step forward and share their stories.

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Your University, Your News, Your Life
“Me Too” inspires sexual assault victims to share their stories