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Dani Ayers

Source: Dani Ayers / Me Too Movement

The Me Too organization has contributed to a ground swell of mobilizing around the need to listen and believe victims of sexual violence.

What began as a hashtag, emboldening victims to come forward and share their stories on social media, began over a decade prior with activist Tarana Burke who has committed her life to fighting for survivors. Burke’s work pushes the movement to acknowledge that Black women should remain central in the conversation surrounding sexual violence, due to the fact that Black women experience sexual violence at higher rates than other disenfranchised groups, second to indigenous women.

In December of 2018, Dani Ayers, an organizational development and board strategist, joined the foundation as COO, later transiting to its first-ever CEO. Ayers envisions expanding the work of the organization to work cross-sectionally with other organizations and activists who understand Burke’s mission as well as pushing to expand globally.

“The fact is 12 million people raised their hand and said, “Me Too,” in October of 2017 and in 24 hours after the hashtag went viral. And 12 million people is a voting bloc. It’s a community. And so we do truly believe that we can organize survivors to vote along their needs and that’s never been done before, so we’re really excited about this campaign,” Ayers said.

For Black women, Ayers says the threat of sexual violence prevails on many fronts and includes medical racism, not being believed by our own community members and the threat of violence at the hands of police.

Dani Ayers

Source: Me Too / Me Too Movement

“When you have the cross section of patriarchal violence and enslavement, the group that’s going to be adversely affected and the most unseen is Black women. And that has just continued over the years, that is still true today. It is so steeped in our culture and in our systems, political structure, culture systems our political systems that it is part of our fabric in this country,” she said.

In September the organization launched a get out the vote campaign to make it plain that the concerns of survivors will no longer be pushed to the wayside. The Survivors’ Vote campaign, which is an extension of the group’s Survivors’ Agenda, a multi-layered action plan to center survivors and express their important demands to legislators. The organization has also launched a peer-to-peer texting campaign where participants can text “Survivors’ Agenda” to 97779 and also receive voting tips and tools catered to survivors.

“Survivors’ Vote is an offshoot of the Survivors’ Agenda which we developed in coalition with 30 or so partner organizations. And the Survivors’ Agenda is a platform that addresses the various systems and structures in our society. There’s labor, education, housing, health care, healing justice. And it addresses what’s wrong in these systems and the interruptions that need to be made to improve these systems for survivors,” said Ayers.

“So we have four intersections. Building a community of survivors, making our voices heard, investing in direct organizing to learn what moves survivor voters to action and developing a clear agenda through governance. So even though we started the Survivors’ Vote work now in this election, it will continue.”

The election has been upsetting for sexual violence survivors who struggle with staying engaged in an election where both presidential candidates have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual violence and/or both.

“I mean, what a world we live in that that is our reality right? That we have two candidates for president with these accusations against them. It’s a really sad moment in my view. But I think what we know is that because of these accusations, a lot of survivors are triggered in this moment. So we are really trying to be in communication with survivors during this get out the vote season so that we can be in relationship with them, supporting them, hearing their concerns and working with them to still get out and vote.”
Dani Ayers

Source: Me Too / Me Too Movement

Ayers says that while having two candidates with these types of accusations is far from ideal, the goal is to vote for a candidate who will engage with survivors in an effort to end sexual violence. As the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged many to isolate for fear of catching and/or spreading the disease, many continue to suffer in their homes with nowhere to go and limited resources for help.

“The other reality is that in this moment we have seen an increase in intimate partner violence by 20 percent and there’s also an element of survivors not being able to vote based on what they are facing at home,” Ayers said.
Ayers encourages voters to stay committed to the local election process by researching candidates and their voting records in an effort to make sure their history aligns with action. With the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Ayers says the need for activation in our local communities and elections is crucial.
“Because as we continue to put these folks in positions of power, we can influence all the way up to the Supreme Court. We can have influence as we continue to vote and align it with our needs. And align it with our principles and align it with our values. We can over time see systemic long term change,” Ayers said.
“It’s also the cultural shift that needs to happen. People need to understand that this is actually an issue, rape culture is actually embedded in our culture. And the only way we’re going to be able to undo that is by having all of these things take place. Changing legislation, policy and cultural shift,” said Ayers.
Ayers says the work can be completed with allyship and personal responsibility to educate oneself. Me Too offers that specific opportunity with their Act Too initiative, which is accessible on the organization’s website.
“It’s really about centering the visibility of survivors, that we are not victims, that we are survivors. That our voices will be heard and our stories will not be ignored, and our votes will be counted.”
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