#MeToo, an online campaign that supports the survivors of sexual abuse, assault and harrassment, has recently taken social media by storm. Although it has gained popularity over the last two months, the initiative actually began 10 years ago.
Tarana Burke, an activist from Harlem, launched the movement a decade ago to aid underprivileged women of color affected by sexual abuse.
She was inspired after bonding with a young girl during a youth camp hosted by Just Be Inc., a nonprofit she founded that’s “focused on the health, well-being, and wholeness of young women of color,” the site reads.
Burke detailed the encounter on the site. She said the girl revealed her mother’s boyfriend had been abusing her. That’s when Burke decided to take action by helping the communities where rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers were not present, and “Me Too” was born.
"It's not about a viral campaign for me. It’s about a movement," she told CNN. "On one side, it's a bold declarative statement that 'I'm not ashamed' and 'I'm not alone.' On the other side, it's a statement from survivor to survivor that says 'I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I'm here for you or I get it.'"
The two-word phrase resurfaced in October when actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter to invite those who have experienced sexual harrassment to respond with “Me too.”
Her tweet followed the New York Times’ Oct. 5 investigation into decades of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and within hours #MeToo went viral on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and beyond as people took to the platforms to share their personal accounts of sexual assault.
By the end of that weekend morning, more than 40,000 people had responded to her tweet. More than 12 million people had engaged with the hashtag across Facebook and Twitter, CNN reported.
As the campaign picked up speed, journalist Britni Danielle applauded Burke on Twitter for starting the campaign, highlighting the originator.
Milano credited her later that day.
But for Burke, it isn’t about the accolades. It’s about awareness.
“It made my heart swell to see women using this idea,” she tweeted, “one that we call ‘empowerment through empathy’ #metoo.”