The origins of ‘Me Too’ date back to the late 1990s when activist Tarana Burke worked as a youth camp director. On her organisation’s website, Burke tells the origin story of ‘Me Too’, when a thirteen-year-old girl sought her out to share her experience of sexual abuse. Burke notes her difficulty in hearing the young girl’s story, saying:
I could not muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain … I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured … I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper … me too.
Ten years later, Burke started a non-profit organisation called Just Be that worked to assist young women of colour who were victims of sexual abuse and assault. As part of the work, in 2006 Burke started ‘Me Too’, a movement that sought to provide resources and a platform for survivors of sexual abuse to share their story and bear witness to the trauma experienced by other young women.
The twitter hashtag #MeToo then became part of the cultural zeitgeist when actress Alyssa Milano used it in the autumn of 2017. Milano hoped to encourage women to share their own stories as a reaction to the tales of sexual assault and harassment perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein and others in the film and TV industry. Two days after the initial tweet, Milano gave public credit to Burke, with both Milano and Burke emphasizing the campaign is about many survivors of sexual abuse and assault.4 As soon as it began to appear on social media sites, the movement grew into something larger, with individuals coming forward across all walks of life to share the stories that they too had been victims of sexual abuse in its various and horrifying forms. In the first twenty-four hours, the hashtag had been used more than 30,000 times on Twitter and by almost five million people in twelve million posts on Facebook.