Durangoans will stand in solidarity with those who have experienced sexual assault, harassment and victimization as they gather Saturday to say, “Me too.”
The Durango #MeToo March and Rally is sponsored by the Women’s Rights Committee of Indivisible Durango and co-sponsored by Durango Sexual Assault Services Organization and the Women’s Resource Center. Participants will gather at 10:30 a.m. Saturday outside the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depot before marching down Main Avenue to Buckley Park for rally speeches by Fort Lewis College students Merkin Karr and Natalia Sells and physician Jude Harrison. The event is open to everyone.
Social activist Tarana Burke is credited with starting the “Me too” phrase in 2006 as part of a campaign to empower women of color through empathy and shed light on the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment.
The #MeToo hashtag gained swift traction on social media in October after more than a dozen women accused media mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse, providing a platform for hundreds of thousands of people to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
While a number of high-profile celebrities shared their experiences, men and women also publicly shared their own stories of sexual violence or harassment.
“I think that we are coming into an age where people are no longer afraid to talk about this, and it’s important to keep that ball rolling,” said Karr, who founded Lotus, a sexual assault support group at FLC. “It is one thing for celebrities to come out, but it is another thing to be in your own community and say, ‘Hey, this happened to me.’”
Trailblazing Navy Capt. Gail Harris will provide opening and closing remarks at the rally. In 1973, Harris became the first woman to serve as an intelligence officer in a Navy combat job. She was also the highest-ranking female African American in the U.S. Navy upon her retirement in December 2001.
Harris said she hopes others will find strength in and be inspired by her story.
“I have gone through the fires, so to speak,” she said. “I hope that others realize that if I can do these things, they can, too.”
Reports of sexual assaults increased at two of the three military academies in 2016, according to data obtained by The Associated Press. Assault reports spiked at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
“It is not acceptable for women to be raped or victim shamed,” Harris said. “This whole journey of women equality started long ago. ... You still have a number of powerful men who tend to see women not as professional or social equals. I see this as the last part of the journey of bringing women into full equality.”