Welcome as we pay tribute to the unsung heroines and heroes whose voices have broken silence in the realm of sexual assault awareness. Here we illuminate the stories and untold narratives of individuals who have tirelessly championed the cause, broken barriers and dismantled the pervasive culture of silence. From trailblazing activists to resilient survivors turned advocates, our platform sheds light on those whose courage has ignited conversations and inspired change. We invite you to read their stories and witness the profound impact these remarkable figures have had on the landscape of sexual assault awareness.
Black History & Contributions
Amplifying Black voices, stories, and legacies.
Here we celebrate those who have impacted change within the Black community and beyond.
In this moment we find ourselves honoring Black History Month. Simultaneously we recognize that the contributions of Black Americans illuminate far beyond the confines of one particular month within a calendar year. Keep an eye on this space year-round as we elevate the champions and warriors whose timeless accomplishments know no bounds.
February Feature: Tarana Burke
Tarana Burke has changed the way the world views sexual violence. In the wake of the “me too” Movement’s notoriety she maintained a survivor-centered emphasis, championing the notion of empowerment through empathy. (Tarana Burke bio, n.d, taranaburke.com)
Although the #metoo hashtag went viral in 2017 with over 12 million social media posts of personal stories about sexual assault and harassment, Tarana Burke had long before paved the road that the modern-day iteration of “me too” now found itself traveling upon. In 2017 her decade long work and its roots catapulted to the forefront.
Paving the Way
Born on September 12, 1973, Tarana Burke would become a social activist and the founder of the “me too” Movement. Hailing from The Bronx, New York, she dedicated her life to advocating for survivors of sexual violence, particularly among Black women and girls and within marginalized communities. As a young girl in the late 80’s, she joined a youth leadership organization called 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, where she cultivated her passion for community organizing. Over time her work grew and evolved, and she shifted to serving survivors of sexual violence.
In 2006, she coined the phrase “me too” to create a sense of solidarity and empathy among survivors. Burke has tirelessly worked to amplify the voices of those who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, emphasizing the importance of empathy, healing, and support. Her groundbreaking work has sparked a global movement, bringing attention to the prevalence of sexual violence and fostering a collective effort to address and combat this pervasive issue.
A Laser Sharp Focus
While the Hollywood-fueled #metoo Movement put the spotlight on accountability for abusers, Tarana Burke continued to place her focus on the needs of survivors, and survivor-led,
survivor-centered solutions. While doing work for 21st Century in Selma, Alabama she began to hear similar stories of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation echoed from the mouths of many Black women and girls. Stories that hit home for her personally. At the time she was not ready to acknowledge the sexual abuse in her own past yet was inspired to serve the needs of those who were.
To address the issues clearly laid out before her, in 2005 she created the Just Be, Inc. organization to prioritize the wellness of Black women and girls and provide them access to resources, safe spaces, and support. Over time her work evolved to include Black, queer, trans, disabled, and all communities of color.
Driven to serve the causes of people of color, Tarana Burke’s body of work calls attention to the intersection between social justice and sexual violence. Various forms of discrimination within marginalized communities (racism, sexism, etc.) lead to higher rates of sexual violence in those communities.
In her own words Burke says “It [the “me too” Movement] addresses sexual violence as a systemic issue — and it explains how other systemic issues, such as anti-black racism, capitalism and classism, poverty and housing impact survivors.” (Burke, 2019)
Keeping the Momentum Alive
A big advocate of community action, Tarana provides training and resources so parents and families can learn to be active in their communities and take steps to keep children safe. She stresses that teaching people to take action is the key to creating safe environments. One example is getting parents together to make sure their schools have a proper vetting process when hiring teachers.
“We have to find ways to interrupt sexual violence everywhere, every day, all the time.” – Tarana Burke
In 2018, she founded ‘me too.’ International, a global non-profit organization that works to address the systems that allow sexual violence to remain a significant matter in this country and across the globe.
Burke comments “The young girls and women who were served by the “me too” Movement’s work in its early years look very different from the ones who mainly identify with the movement — or the hashtag — today. And before the last few years, it had felt like sexual assault survivors, supporters and activists had been screaming into the abyss for decades, waiting for the world to wake up.” (Burke, 2019)
There is still much work to be done but Tarana Burke’s influence remains steady and strong– leading with grace, love and empathy as the world continues to awaken.
Awards & Accolades
2017 TIME Person of the Year
2018 TIME 100 Most Influential People
2019 Sydney Peace Prize
2019 Harvard Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award
2020 USA Today’s Women of the Decade
Want to Learn More?
Read about Tarana Burke’s me too organization
Buy Her Books
Undistracted – Listen to activist Brittney Packnett Cunningham’s Undistracted podcast episode as she and Tarana Burke discuss her purpose & passions, life story, and work with survivors: