#MeToo Creator Tarana Burke Explains How ‘Believe Survivors’ Isn’t The Same As ‘Believe Anyone’

tarana burke leigh sales believe women

American activist who started the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, joined Australian journalist Leigh Sales for an interview on how the term ‘believe survivors’ is very different to ‘believe everyone without question’.

Joining Sales for an interview on ABC’s 7.30, Burke discussed the genesis of #MeToo, which she coined in 2006, and how it was created to provide a sense of acceptance and belonging amongst individuals who had experienced sexual assault or abuse. 

“I was really trying to fill a void that was in my community”, she said.

“I had so many young girls who had been subjected to sexual violence and had no outlets, no resources.”

Toward the end of the interview, Burke discussed how ‘believe survivors’ as a term should not be misinterpreted as ‘believe everyone and anyone’. However, it does mean you begin taking people seriously and listening from a place of trust, rather than mistrust.

“When people say ‘I believe her’ or ‘believe survivors’, it’s not ‘believe anyone who comes forward with an accusation’… it means you take it seriously,” Burke said.

“We [often] question, we obscure, we do everything else but believe the person. If you believe, it doesn’t mean you go forward and you condemn the man automatically, it means you investigate… it means you don’t shut down the survivor.”

Burke also touched on how ‘believe all women’ is a phrase she has difficulty standing behind as a Black woman, due to the disproportionate amount of times claims of sexual violence have been used against Black men.

“There is no part of me that could have a mantra that says “believe all women,” because, across the world, sexual violence has been weaponised against Black men,” she continued.

“Black women are largely not believed when we come forward, and so when you hear people say ‘believe survivors’, take it out of your mind that it’s a blanket statement that means anybody that comes forward with an accusation is telling the truth.

“What you should hear is ‘let me take this seriously.’”

You can check out ABC’s 7.30 for the full interview with Leigh Sales and Tarana Burke here.

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