#MeToo campaign inspires local activism with a rally at Vancouver Art Gallery

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      Over ten years ago, Tarana Burke, program director for the Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender of Equity, had a young child approach her privately. She told Burke a tortuous story of her mother’s boyfriend’s systematic sexual abuse, and how he had forced himself on her—an account that horrified the director so profoundly that she pointed the pre-teen to another female counselor who could “help her better”. The girl’s shock at being rejected—at opening up and not being believed or taken seriously—stayed with Burke, as did the fact that she could have comforted her with just two words: me too.

      That moment formed the foundation of the “me too” movement, first created in 2006. Burke had two objectives: to allow survivors to say that they are not ashamed, and to allow other survivors to support them by showing how they are not alone.

      In recent weeks, those two words have amassed an influence far beyond Burke’s initial imaginations. After the actor Alyssa Milano encouraged survivors of sexual assault to share their own stories with the hashtag #metoo in the wake of numerous allegations emerging against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, millions of stories were written on social media detailing women’s—and sometimes men’s—experiences of abuse. The hashtag allowed survivors to shift the conversation, discussing not how many people were victims, but shining a spotlight on the offenders. Just one day after Milano published her tweet, Facebook released the statistic that 45 per cent of Americans had friends that had posted “me too”.

      The hashtag also made a strong impression in communities within Vancouver, prevalently displayed on the social media of individuals from all professions and classes. Although the usage of #metoo has begun to wane on social media in the last week, local advocacy group March On Vancouver wants to keep the pressure on lawmakers and society to stamp out sexual assault and rape culture.

      In solidarity with the #MeToo March in Toronto, March On Vancouver will rally in response to the outpouring of local stories. Scheduling speakers from different backgrounds including women, men, and trans people, organizing performers, and offering a strong call to action, the group invites survivors and their supporters to join the assembly at the Vancouver Art Gallery to address how to create a world where offenders, not their victims, are ashamed.

      The rally will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday (November 4), and welcomes donations and supplies to help the cause. More details are available here.

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays