Tarana Burke was born on September 12, 1973, in the Bronx, NY. Burke is civil rights and community activist, well-known as the founder of the #MeToo movement, and a three-time survivor of rape and sexual assault. Burke started her professional career in Selma, Alabama where she worked with the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute, and the Black Belt Arts and Cultural Center. In 2003, she turned her efforts to helping young minority women, co-founding a non-profit, JustBe Inc. Burke explained while searching for the right words to support a young black girl disclosing the abuse that she was subjected to by her mother’s boyfriend formed the words “me too.[i]”
On October 15, 2017. #MeToo went viral all over social media when actress Alyssa Milano used Twitter, to invite those who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault into a global fight for recognition. Millions of people shared stories of sexual assault using the hashtag across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The Me Too Movement is now used for survivors everywhere for the words, the platform, and a voice to tell their stories.
During Black History Month, we want to recognize Tarana for starting a movement that is reshaping our country. Survivors have told us that fear of being judged is often a barrier to seeking help. This viral movement has undoubtedly helped reduce stigma around the issue.
Although women of all backgrounds find support, strength and power in the #MeToo movement; let’s not forget Tarana’s mission to support people that have been marginalized through systemic disparities and disproportionality. Institutional inequities create unique barriers for women of color. These inequities compound risk factors and reduce protections for many social conditions such as domestic violence, sexual assault and a host of other sexual and reproductive health issues.
Nationally, African American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience physical or sexual violence from a partner or spouse. In Indiana, we find that negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes disproportionality affect black women. In 2018, Black women accounted for 33.5 percent of all Chlamydia cases, 44.9 percent of all Gonorrhea cases and 41.8 percent of all syphilis cases in Indiana[ii]. Also, 51 percent of all newly diagnosed cases of AIDS and 58 of all HIV cases in Indiana in 2018 were among Black women[iii]. In addition, the Indiana Department of Health reports[iv] the state’s maternal mortality rates is 53.4 of 100,000 live births for Black women compared to the national average of 21 deaths per every 100,00 live births among white women[v]. This disproportionality in deaths among Black mothers in Indiana is paralleled by unconscionably high rates of infant mortality among Black babies. While rates of infant mortality are higher than the national average for Black and white babies, rates of death among Black babies are two times higher than those among white babies (14.6 per 1000 live births, and 7.3 per 1000 live births, respectively).
In 2020 ICADV will expand our Rape Prevention and Education programming to elevate the historically marginalized voices of African American women. We will work to dismantle the systems that create barriers to sexual and reproductive health for Black women and girls in order to increase healthy sexuality among this population as a protective factor for sexual violence.
[i] Biography *(2018) Tarana Burke (https://www.biography.com/activist/tarana-burke_
[ii] Indiana State Department of Health . (2019). Sexual Transmitted Disease Database.
[iii] 2018 Indiana Annual Report. (2019). Semi-Annual HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B&C Data; January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018.
[iv] ISDH. (2019). Retrieved from IN.gov-Indiana State Department of Health Infant Mortality: https://www.in.gov/isdh/27470.htm
[v] ISDH. (2019). Retrieved from IN.gov-Indiana State Department of Health Infant Mortality: https://www.in.gov/isdh/27470.htm