“What did she wear?”
“What was she doing there?”
“She is stupid; she should have known the man had ulterior motives.”
These lines are common responses to sexual harassment and rape in Africa and while statements like these are saddening in the way toxic things are saddening, it is not uncommon to read women and men write responses like this in the comment section on social media.
Tired of the silence, victim shaming, psychological trauma and unintended consequences that attends to being raped, molested and sexually harassed, 45 year old American Actress and Activist, Alyssa Milano acting on a friend’s suggestion tweeted the hash tag #MeToo. She did this to bring awareness to the commonality of sexual harassment and to create a platform where women had an opportunity to share their experiences without having to go into details about their stories if they did not want to.
That singular action has now morphed into a global movement with different women from all over the world identifying with the message the hash tag represents and sharing their stories too. Now, while some think of the #MeToo movement and what comes to mind is Alyssa, what many do not know is that the #MeToo movement has been a thing for over a decade and an African-American woman, Tarana Burke pioneered the movement.
Tarana started using the phrase in 2006 to raise awareness about sexual abuse and assault against women in the society. A victim of rape at 6, dealt with sexual harassment, molested by a neighborhood teenager for several years, raped again as an adult; Tarana has dedicated her life to ensuring that women like her get help and healing from trauma induced by sexual assault.
“Trauma is Trauma and we are taught to downplay it, even think about it as child’s play”. She continues “I want the women I work with to find the entry point to where their healing is.”
Tarana believes that young girls need “different attention” than their male peers and this in addition to other incidents led her to establish Just Be Inc., an organization that promotes the wellness of young female minorities aged 12-18.
She currently sits as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity an initiative which strives to help young women of color increase their overall development through strategic programs and classes.
The #MeToo movement has had notable African women including Oprah Winfrey and Chimamanda Adichie come on board and share their experiences to encourage others.