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Less visible workers need #MeToo movement, too

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Now that the #MeToo movement has received its richly deserved recognition through Time magazine's Person of the Year selection, I hope Tarana Burke is not erased from the movement to which she gave its name.

Since 1927, Time editors annually have recognized people who have most influenced the news during the previous year, for better or for worse. This year the magazine named "The Silence Breakers," women who have spoken out against sexual harassment and assault.

First there was the massive Women's March on Washington in January that dwarfed the size of Trump's inauguration crowd the day before, despite Trump's claims to the contrary (I've got pictures to prove it).

After allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment broke in October, actor Alyssa Milano urged women to post #MeToo on social media if they'd experienced sexual harassment or assault. The movement went viral, with more than 12 million people responding in its first 24 hours, the Associated Press reported.

Since then, at least 80 public figures by Time's count, posted on their website, have since faced accusations.

Yet unknown to Milano at the time of her first #MeToo post, another similar movement with the same slogan had been formed 10 years earlier by Tarana Burke, with much less fanfare or exposure. The name came from a troubling conversation the Philadelphia activist had had several years earlier with a 13-year-old girl at a summer camp for disadvantaged teens where Burke was working as a counselor.

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The girl's personal story of "monstrous" sexual abuse by her mother's boyfriend horrified Burke so much, she later wrote in an online essay, that "right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counselor who could 'help her better.' "

"I didn't have a response or a way to help her in that moment," Burke wrote, "and I couldn't even say 'me too.' "

From those sentiments, she says, the "Me Too" movement was born. But after Alyssa Milano began to receive widespread credit for launching the #MeToo hashtag, Burke and her allies feared her name and efforts might be erased from the same national conversation -- and history.

Fortunately, Milano soon shared the national stage with Burke. Burke was not included in Time's cover photo of "Silence Breakers," for some reason, but she is profiled inside.

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(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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