#MeToo creator aims to empower at RWU event

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 500 people gathered Tuesday night at Roger Williams University to listen to the woman behind the “#MeToo” movement share her story.

Tarana Burke, the creator of the movement, told a packed gymnasium about what inspired the creation of the phrase – used in reference to sexual assault and harassment – in 2006. She told the crowd the story of when a teenager girl approached her when she was 22 years old and told her the horrors she experienced at the hands of her step father.

“The only thing I really wanted to say to her was ‘me too,'” Burke said.

Now with celebrities retweeting the hashtag, it’s become part of the American vernacular. Burke said when it went viral on October 15, 2017 it was the “most unexpected thing in her life.”

Burke said she’d be working as an activist for decades, which was a slow and steady process.

“People ask me, ‘What did it feel like the day it went viral?'” Burke said. “Scared. That’s the truth. I felt like, this thing that had been my life’s work was about to become a pop culture moment that will be fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow.”

Now that the movement has remained part of the public dialogue for months, Burke wanted to dispel misconceptions, saying the movement is about embracing joy over trauma and it’s not about demonizing men.

“This whole idea of taking down powerful men does not come from survivors, it comes from other people,” Burke said.

Burke asked those who attended the event Tuesday to do their part and to help change the culture

“Let’s get active together. Let’s support survivors together,” Burke said. “If you are ready to go that  I can only leave you with these two words: me too.”

Burke said a lot of people ask her what’s next for the movement. She said it’s time to shift the narrative away from the perpetrators and back onto the survivors, and the systems in place that are allowing these problems to be so pervasive.