Tarana Burke, activist and founder of the #MeToo movement, released a series of PSAs about sexual assault at Sundance this weekend. The animated videos feature the voices of survivors, including actor Terry Crews, telling their own powerful stories about experiencing sexual violence. "This is something we want people to sit with," Burke tells Refinery29 in an exclusive interview.
When the #MeToo movement became an international conversation in October of 2018, there was a lot of emphasis on people who were accused of sexual violence. But there was very little discussion about the lives of survivors and the process of healing, which is something Burke would like to focus on in the years ahead.
"I hope that we're able to really influence pop culture," Burke says. "I really hope we're able to influence the dominant narrative around sexual violence, which is that the bodies are at fault." By turning the spotlight on survivors, Burke hopes to flip that narrative and give people a deeper understanding of what the #MeToo movement is really all about. Here, Burke spoke to Refinery29 about the PSAs, and why people need to understand what it means to be a survivor of sexual violence. Watch each of the PSAs below, but keep in mind the content may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual violence.
Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Was premiering these PSAs at Sundance an intentional move? Why?
"Sundance is such a huge venue for premiering what's new in media and what's new in pop culture. The movies and the media that come out of Sundance are going to make a lasting impression on us for the next year. We'll be talking about the things we see here for the rest of the year. It was important for us to have an opening or premiere for [the PSAs] that was commensurate with how important we think they are for the conversation, how important we think they are in pop culture, and how important they are for shifting the narrative.
Why was it important to you to include male survivors in these PSAs?
"As a first media project that we're coming out with, it was definitely important to include male voices, because we're really trying to underscore and emphasize that this is not a woman's movement. There's just not enough conversation about male survivors, about men and boys who survived child sexual abuse, or men who experienced sexual harassment. As we've seen with Terry Crews, it's very evidenced by his case, that men who come forward are ridiculed, and shunned, and treated unfairly.
"We wanted to be really declarative about the fact that men belong in this movement, straight and queer men, girls and women, documented, undocumented. However you identify across the spectrum of gender, race, and religion, sexual violence affects your life. Either you know a survivor, or you are one, or both."
What are your hopes for these PSAs and for the future of the #MeToo movement?
"We want to maintain the same momentum that we've had over the last year and a half. We want to continue to grow it — and by grow, we mean expand both our online [and] offline presence. We're introducing programs every few months. We've funded half a million dollars in grants for organizations doing this work on the ground. We've been steadily growing our work, what we do, how we do it, and making sure we're staying laser-focused on our bottom line and vision.
"The whole part about changing hearts and minds is that, those people who are living their lives everyday out here in the world, they shape policy. Everything from voting on a new law or some kind of policy, to being on a jury, we need people to really understand what it is to be a survivor... [and to] have deep empathy with that experience, so that when they go out in the world, and they, one way or another, affect our lives, they're doing it with an understanding of what it is that we've experienced. That's really what the PSAs are about. And our hopes for the movement are that we can keep building intensity and keep creating opportunities for people to understand sexual violence, and ultimately, better understand how to stop it.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.