It’s been days since R. Kelly was convicted in his New York sex trafficking trial and activist Tarana Burke, the founder of the “Me Too” movement, is opening up about the burden of sexual trauma on Black women and girls.
“[The shame comes from] not being able to protect yourself, and then the shame of breaking the rules. When we’re children it’s sort of cut and dry: You’re either good or you’re bad. There’s not really an in between,” she explained during an interview with NPR. “And when you are given a message over and over and over and over again, it says, “Don’t let anybody touch your private parts. Those are nasty things. Those are fresh things. Those are things that fast girls or bad girls do.” And you find yourself in this situation at a very young age. You’re either one or the other: You’re good or you’re bad. And there’s a lot of shame attached to that.”
It took years before Burke realized that the responsibility of what she went through was not her burden to carry.
“I often wonder why this person picked me. It could be something that he saw in my personality. It could be any number of things, but it’s all the depravity in his mind, it had nothing to do with who I was as a child or anything that I did as a child,” she explained.
“There’s been all kinds of research, and we’ve seen stories, even anecdotal stories of predators telling about how they pick the children that they decide to go after and why. Maybe it’s the quiet child, maybe it’s the loud child. … They all have their reasons, but none of those reasons are connected to me, none of them were connected to me being a particular type of girl this happened to, which is what I put in my mind: “I’m the type of girl this happens to.” I had to work, go through a whole bunch of steps, to take the blame from myself and put it where it rightfully belonged,” she adds.
“Take the burden from myself and lay it at the feet of the people who actually should hold that. That took a lot of work.”