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5 takeaways from Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement

Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, spoke to TCNJ students, faculty, and guests at a packed Kendall Hall on Monday, September 23. Burke, a sexual assault survivor, is an advocate for compassionate communities that support victims of sexual assault while attempting to change toxic cultures. 

Here are five major takeaways from her talk:

1. The names of the survivors matter.

Yes, people can name the offenders, but what about the survivors? The names of these victims matter as their lives have been changed forever by the sexual violence perpetrated against them — and the emotional and psychological toll of speaking out. 

2. A movement is not run by a single person.

“Movements are made up of people,” Burke says. She’s often asked what she and the rest of the #MeToo movement are doing next to continue fighting against sexual violence, but explained that’s not how a movement works. She challenged audience members, “What will you do next?”

3. “Community problems deserve a community response.”

People need to come together if they want to make change happen. Burke encouraged the crowd to think about the culture at TCNJ and what protections, laws, and safety measures are in place to protect all members of the TCNJ community. Are we happy with what’s in place? Do we want to make changes? If we do, we need to decide as a community and work together to create the environment we want on campus. “Your power comes from your collective voices,” she says.

4. “If you’re not scared, it’s not really courage.”

Burke explained how sexual violence is an epidemic in this country, and trying to make changes to that can seem overwhelming, intimidating, and scary. Burke encouraged audience members to take #MeToo and shape it into what they need for the next stages of the movement. 

5. Empowerment and empathy are everything!

There is power in knowing you’re not alone. Burke said, “I want empathy to be on everyone’s tongue. Empathy is a tool.” By understanding where others are coming from, we can establish community and play the long game towards lasting change.

The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Anti-Violence Initiatives program.

— Kristen Luettchau ’11