Campus News

Me Too founder demands increased campus safety, sexual violence prevention

Me Too Movement Founder Tarana Burke visited campus as a distinguished lecturer Monday. 

Image By: Saya Inoue

Founder of the Me Too Movement Tarana Burke spoke to hundreds of UW-Madison students, faculty and community members Monday, urging them to push the boundaries constructed by the university and create a community based on safety and protection. 

Burke, a Bronx, New York native, is a social activist and community organizer who founded the Me Too Movement in 2006. Through her work in social justice, she has shared her lived experience with sexual violence for decades. 

The movement recently went viral and gained mass attention in the media and popularity on social media platforms in 2017. However, despite this national attention, Burke said the movement is meant to do one thing: help survivors of sexual violence with individual healing. 

Being a survivor of sexual violence herself, Burke said she didn’t want young people growing up thinking they were alone in something that happens so frequently but is rarely discussed. 

“When Me Too started, it was literally a way to give these young people language and to give them space to process and understand what sexual violence was,” Burke said.

Sexual violence affects all populations, she said, but especially harms marginalized communities. She also stressed that while sexual violence expands beyond the university setting, having a safe environment on campus is something that must be prioritized. 

Burke said based on the conversations she had with students on campus, she does not think UW-Madison is fully committed to keeping its students safe. 

“There should be a commitment to make this community less inherent to sexual violence. Late alerts and pacifying emails don’t make a campus safe,” Burke said. “Do you have consistent, sustainable policies and practices in place that actively work to meet the needs of this student body?” 

In 2017, 318 students reported being sexually assaulted at UW-Madison. More recently, acts of sexual violence raised concern among students, causing many to protest

Burke said she hopes university officials and students alike can take accountability for their actions and move toward making the campus safer for all. She said allowing people to abuse their power and avoid accountability is something that contributes to the cycle of sexual violence.

By getting involved on campus, Burke said UW-Madison students can play a role in their own safety and the safety of their peers.

“Whether it’s a change in behavior, a conversation with your family, a policy check or holding your school accountable, get involved,” Burke said.  

She reminded the crowd that sexual violence is real, it’s happening now and it’s an urgent issue to be taken seriously. She also reassured that no one is alone in their experiences, and with the help of the movement, there is a way to heal and help.  

“We are a global movement of survivors,” Burke said. “This happened to me, too.” 

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