How #MeToo Creator Tarana Burke Says the Survivors' Agenda Is "Turning Pain Into Power"

When Tarana Burke created the #MeToo movement, it brought awareness to and online discussion about sexual violence. Now, the Survivors' Agenda — a digital platform created by Burke and fellow advocates Fatima Goss Graves, Mónica Ramírez, and Ai-jen Poo — is turning those discussions into action. The Agenda provides a community guide to end sexual and gender-based violence in our society. During a three-day virtual event this weekend with the Survivors Summit, these leaders will offer an opportunity to discuss political strategy, offer communal healing, and provide a safe space for survivors.

This summit comes on the heels of agony this year — most recently being the great political and cultural loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As we mourn this pioneer of female autonomy, I spoke to Burke and Ramírez as they described the summit's purpose to put survivors' words into political action, advocate for the intersectionality found in sexual violence, and reframe what it means to be a survivor. Of the decision to shift the online conversation into a tangible space, Burke told me: "I do think, after the uproar of the viral hashtag and people not knowing where to put that energy next, that this is something that this summit provides — an amazing vehicle for folks to do that. You know, it provides a space and platform that we created, that survivors created, that allows folks to do that. And there's not very many spaces like that that exist."

Survivors' Agenda

Created as a roadmap by survivors, the Survivors' Agenda was created specifically for politicians and institutions to reference and hold them accountable when establishing legislations that influence sexual and gender-based violence in our country. The agenda focuses on different categories including education, healthcare, housing, and workers' rights. The full agenda is also available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Vietnamese, and French. This document is a reminder that sexual violence is not a partisan issue, despite how it's being portrayed in our politics. It affects women, children, and people of all genders and of any political preference, and only through this awareness can our policies ignite real change.

As important as it is to recognize intersectionality found in feminism, we must understand that intersectionality applies across other movements — especially the movement against sexual violence. Burke began the "metoo" movement before the hashtag went viral with horror stories of predatory executives in Hollywood. However, Burke reminds us that workplace sexual harassment and violence do not capture the full scope of sexually based violence. It's important to understand how different forms of violence intersect with one's race, religion, politics, economic status, environment, and more. Ramírez continued, "Because if we don't talk about that, then we are often contributing to the problem of silencing and erasing the experience of those individuals as well as potentially preventing them from getting the help and resources they need."

One way we can empower these marginalized communities is by giving them a voice. That begins by organizing from a new perspective of survivorship. "For a lot of us, survival [is] about turning that pain into power," Burke told me. "And this kind of moment where we can stand up and say, yes, this happened to me, and that's why I'm an authority of what should happen next." Because who better to determine how upcoming laws and policies can protect their future than the people who were neglected in their past.