Tarana Burke, Founder Of #MeToo Reflects On A Year Since Her Movement Went Viral

When Tarana Burke woke up on the morning of October 15, 2017, she found that her life's work had gone viral.

"I remember calling my friends frantic and trying to figure out what to do," she tweeted.

The thing is, her work was being shared by millions of women and men worldwide, but without her name or her years of work behind it.

"I didn't know whether to go online and say - THIS ALREADY EXISTS! Or to just let it go, but then I realised letting go wasn't an option."

You've definitely heard of her work. It's #MeToo, or as Burke first coined it, Me Too -- without the hashtag.

Hashtags weren't really a thing when Burke founded the movement in 2006 to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society.

After the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke, Alyssa Milano shared a suggestion by a friend, Charlotte Clymer: "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."

Milano shared the suggestion on Twitter, and the movement took off like wildfire.

Initially, people were attributing the movement to Milano's tweet, and without the women familiar with Burke's work, it might have stayed that way.

"[They] raised up in arms... they activated a network and the support came from everywhere," Burke tweeted.

Tarana Burke marching in the Take Back The Workplace March and #MeToo Survivors March & Rally in November 2017. Photo: Getty.

She posted a video of a speech she gave on Me Too in 2014, and noted an "interesting thing" happened over the next 24 hours.

"People began to get confused -- had 'white Hollywood' tried to steal this tweet from a Black woman?!?

"The short answer, no. But I was definitely in danger of being erased," she added, paying tribute to the black women, allies and friends who helped spread the word.

"But something else happened too. I watched for hours that first day as more and more stories poured out across social media from survivors.

"One story in particular hit me hard. It was a woman's story or being assaulted on her college campus and it resonated so deeply with me. I was on the one hand fielding calls from my girls like "whatchu wanna do??" They were ready for a fight to make sure I wasn't erased.

"On the other hand - I was watching thousands of survivors pour their hearts out across social media with no container to process, no support and no one really helping to walk them through disclosure or uplift the power of community for survivors.

Tarana Burke has been fighting against sexual harassment, abuse and assault for decades. Photo: Getty.

"My work has always centred Black and Brown women and girls. And it always will - but at the heart of it all it supports ALL survivors of sexual violence. And I committed to that work a long time ago so watching people open up with what felt like no covering online was hard.

"The whole time I was fretting about saving my work and I didn't realise that 'my work' was happening right in front of me."

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She thanked everyone who had given her support and love over the past year, while promising new things for the Me Too movement.

A new website with healing and advocacy resources is rolling out. Stories of trauma are being collected -- not for curation, Burke told the New York Times, but for healing.

And Burke is no longer questioning why "God chose to give me this platform". She's just grateful.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: Getty