California

#MeToo movement founder encourages Fresno State students to push for change

Founder of the Me Too movement, Tarana Burke, speaks at Fresno State

Student Jemimah Barba reflects on Tarana Burke's speech and how she empowers students to make a difference on campus.
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Student Jemimah Barba reflects on Tarana Burke's speech and how she empowers students to make a difference on campus.

The founder of the “Me Too” movement on Wednesday told Fresno State students she hasn’t been to one college campus that doesn’t have sexual violence issues.

Tarana Burke, 45, said she found Fresno State’s core values interesting but questioned whether school administration was doing enough to prevent sexual violence and harassment.

“If you are not happy, you have the power to change it,” Burke told the crowd of about 300 people that included students, faculty and staff at the Satellite Student Union. “You don’t have to wait until you graduate. You don’t have to wait until you are a donor.”

In recent years, the Me Too movement has focused on women breaking their silence on their experience on sexual harassment and violence.

Many women shared their stories on social media using “#MeToo,” which has since become a sign of female empowerment.

Burke, however, reminded her Fresno State audience that the Me Too movement remains about connecting survivors of sexual assault to the resources they need in order to heal.

“A hashtag is not a movement,” Burke said.

The Me Too movement gained further steam as women spoke out following high-profile cases involving movie director Harvey Weinstein, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and singer R. Kelly.

But Burke said the movement is not merely about bringing down powerful men, as it may be portrayed in the media.

“It’s not a women’s movement and it’s not an anti-men movement,” she said.

Fresno State support

Licensed clinical social worker Diana Karageozian, who is the clinical case manager at Fresno State’s Student Health and Counseling Center, said the university provides confidential services to help students affected by sexual violence.

“We understand how trauma affects people and we provide counseling, advocacy and other basic needs to ensure the safety and healing that can then lead to academic and personal success,” she said in a statement.

Karageozian added staff was grateful for Burke’s “powerful message” that inspires them to continue the work to support students in their healing.

“An evening of Empowerment and Advocacy with Tarana Burke” was hosted by Fresno State Student Involvement and USU Productions.

Contract stipulations for her speech came with strict requirements, though it was held in a public setting.

Burke during her speech did not share intimate details of her personal experience with sexual abuse.

She did provide the backstory of the Me Too movement, explained what she believes is misinterpretation of the movement by the mainstream media and where the movement is headed.

At its essence, the Me Too movement is the work of sexual violence survivors who help others overcome similar situations.

“Our movement started because people spoke,” Burke said. “Our movement is survivors committed to healing and action.”

Yesenia Amaro: 559-441-6144, @YeseniaAmaro

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