Dear Survivor: Tarana Burke Wants You to Hold On to Hope

"We need to heal—and in order to heal, we must have the capacity to hope that that work to end sexual violence IS possible."

tarana burke
(Image credit: Design by Morgan McMullen)

In 2012, Emmy-winning director Tani Ikeda founded Survivor Love Letter, a movement for survivors of sexual assault and their allies to publicly celebrate their lives. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Marie Claire collaborated with the organization to publish survivor love letters from Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, and Amanda Nguyen, founder of Rise, along with special illustrations of the women created by artist Brittany Harris. Read Burke's love letter to survivors below, then read Nguyen's love letter to her younger self here. Whether you're a survivor or an ally, Survivor Love Letter invites you to write a message and share it using the hashtag #SurvivorLoveLetter. Learn more here.

Dear Survivor,

Holding on to hope has always been a strategy of resilience that I return to again and again. There is something quite audacious about being hopeful in the face of white supremacy, patriarchy, and oppression, because they seem so overwhelming, dominating, omnipresent.

The work of the Me Too movement is largely driven by hope. If I couldn’t be hopeful that an end to sexual violence was possible, if I couldn’t be hopeful that the material lives of Black people were able to change or that marginalized folks could have justice, then there wouldn’t be anything to work towards.

tarana burke

(Image credit: Brittany Harris / @gobeeharris)

With Me Too, my greatest hope is that people will understand that this is about healing and action. This is both about the people who’ve said, "me too" and ensuring that no one else has to come forward and say "me too" in the future. We built this movement on the backs of survivors, of people who have suffered these indignities and had their humanity snatched away from them. But in order for us to stand on a front line, to testify before legislators, to tell our stories, we need to heal—and in order to heal, we must have the capacity to hope that that work to end sexual violence IS possible.

I’ve been told so many bad stories from survivors from all walks of life; that they just don’t feel comfortable coming forward—they haven’t yet seen themselves in this narrative of hope and resilience. But the flip side is: We cannot wait for the narrative to catch up with us. We can’t wait for white folks to decide that our trauma is worth centering on when we know that it’s happening. We know that there are people who are ravaging our community and yet we still have to be steadfast and committed to survivors and ourselves as a movement. The moment you have clarity of vision and know that you are on the right side of history, then you can just keep marching forward.

—Tarana Burke

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, RAINN—the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization—is available 24/7 for confidential support. Call 800-656-4673 or use the org's online chat tool to talk with a trained staff member.

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