This week, TIME magazine named its person of the year, but it was not just one person. They named all the women who participated in the #MeToo campaign who came out earlier this year to tell their stories across the world on multiple social media platforms. Called “Silence Breakers”, women ranking as high as A-list celebrities down to dishwashers were speaking out and naming their harassers while facing fears of losing their jobs, of being called crazy and of not being believed.
The movement evolved from a woman trying to prove a point to a rallying cry of support. People began to realize the extent of the problem across the globe and even people without a story were offering encouraging words to those who spoke out.
I’ve known four friends since the eighth grade who were raped, even more who were sexually assaulted. Nearly all my friends, who are girls, have faced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. Somehow, mine never seemed worthy enough for support.
I’ve been sexually assaulted three times since I was a freshman in high school. In one case, a boy who had been harassing me for months held me against a row of lockers in an empty hallway. I wound up kneeing him in the crotch to get away. In another case, a boy came up behind me at a school-sanctioned party my freshman year of high school; my friends were with me and got me away before he could get his hand under my skirt.
The worst time however, the only one I ever reported, was my junior year of high school. It was also the only case where I knew my attacker personally and she was a girl. It started with her asking me out, I turned her down because I had just started dating my current girlfriend, but some people can’t take no for an answer. For months, I was groped, I had things whispered in my ear that, to be blunt, made my skin crawl, my girlfriend was threatened with violence and death, and I had nightmares so bad I would wake up crying.
I did say no, multiple times, but she was supposed to be my friend, and it was just joking, right? That’s what I had convinced myself, that I was over reacting, I was paranoid, while going into school with a false happy face every day. Until one day, about tree months into the harassment and assaults she changed schools. It was still in our system, but more like a sister school and still under the jurisdiction of our administration, but even when I reported it two years later I was told by the people who were supposed to protect me that I was lying. They didn’t believe me because it took me two years to convince myself that what I had endured wasn’t my fault. Two years to convince myself that I wasn’t crazy. The only reason I reported it was because a teacher had read a piece of my writing and informed me I wasn’t crazy and that my feelings of fear and anxiety were very real and valid. Evidently, our administration did not agree.
In the four years following my report, I once again convinced myself I was over reacting. Being groped wasn’t the same as rape and I had no cause to still be freaking out whenever it was brought up. That’s what I thought until the #MeToo movement, and especially Taylor Swift’s court case. For those who don’t know, Swift filed a court case a few months ago suing a radio DJ for only a dollar because he groped her under her skirt on the red carpet. She won the case on sexual assault charges.
It put my own experience into perspective because nearly the exact same thing happened to me every day for three months. If her case was sexual harassment and assault, mine certainly was. It helped me come to terms with it, to know it wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t alone.
My story is just one of millions of how #MeToo has affected and helped women all over the world. It gave us a voice, a platform and agency for ourselves and our experiences. The “Silence Breakers” are strong and powerful and defiantly deserve the award from TIME. No matter where or who we are on the globe we have taken control over our lives, and it feels so good.