The founder of the original #MeToo movement, which began more than two decades ago, spoke at the University of Nevada, Reno Wednesday night. KUNR’s Stephanie Serrano was there and has this report.
Hundreds of people filled the Joe Crowley Student Union to welcome Tarana Burke, who has dedicated 25 years to fighting and educating communities on sexual violence.
Last year, the “MeToo” hashtag exploded on Twitter, gaining 500,000 retweets within 24 hours. Burke says the overnight sensation of that hashtag gave everyday people the chance to come forward and share their stories.
That includes, Yusvasri Santhakumaran, a UNR student who attended the event voiced her truth about being a sexual assault survivor.
"I never thought it would happen to me, and it did. I'm a normal person in a society and I should be safe no matter what--wherever I am, whatever time," she said. "I guess the movement just gave me the courage to realize that it's not my fault and that it is OK. It's about educating people, and it's about men and women and everyone joining the fight."
Louis Magriel is another student who attended the event. He is part of a group on campus called the Young Democratic Socialists, which encourages social justice activism.
"Sexual assault and sexual violence is one of the worst ways that misogyny affects us in this society," Magriel said, "and it's such a continuous, massive problem that intersects with race, that intersects with class, and so fighting and recognizing it and doing harm reduction around the problem of sexual violence is not only vital to our communities, it's literally a necessary step to doing any other work that's going to better our society as a whole."
The event took place while there’s a national spotlight on sexual assault victims after last week’s controversial hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Burke says the #Metoo movement isn't about taking down powerful men or partisan politics.
"It's really about supporting the people who actually said, 'Me too,' and looking at the graph of sexual violence in this country and beyond, and what we need to do to interrupt it, what we need to do to support the people who've already suffered it or been victimized by it, who've survived it. That's what this work is really about and everything else is a distraction."
As the #MeToo movement continues to grow, the facts surrounding sexual assault are grim. According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 American women has been raped and close to 44 percent have dealt with other forms of sexual violence.