The "Silence-Breakers" Spark a WildFire Against Sexual Assault

TIME magazine's annual "Person of the Year" hit the newsstands recently. The article features not just one person to represent the title, but a dozen individuals as their annual “Person Of The Year”. An abundance of sexual harassment, rape, and abuse cases are emerging in the headlines at an alarming rate, so the cover-story arrives at critical time in history.  The women and men in the article, identified as “The Silence-Breakers,” have started the important international conversation of sexual harassment, revealing truth, and serving justice. Together, the stories have meaning, and create a call to action.

Some victims are famous faces we live vicariously through by social media and news headlines. Others, are directors, entrepreneurs, professors, artists, and other various titles, hidden from the spotlight. They span races, incomes, and occupations, yet all serve as an example of resilience and strength; courage and beauty.

I haven’t gotten a chance to read the article yet, but TIME has a page on their website (http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/?xid=homepage) on more of the story, including a video with many victims encouraging the conversation. For these victims, instances happened at schools and the workplace, ranging in Hollywood and other parts of the world. They came forward with stories of being targeted, manipulated, abused, and humiliated. Some were ongoing for years before confessing. What’s worse is that some perpetrators were colleagues and people they trusted.

Here are some profound highlights from the video on the TIME of the victims and activists:

"I was tired of wondering if it was something I wore or if it was a vibe I was giving off. And then I talked to other women, and they were furious too” -Adama Iwu, lobbyist 

“There wasn’t a place for us to report these experiences. But I sure did talk about it over the years” -Ashley Judd, actress

"When I testified in court, I had already had to watch this man's attorney bully, badger, and harass my team, including my mother... I was angry... I'm not going to let that lawyer or his client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. I'm being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions. Not mine." -Taylor Swift, singer/songwriter

"I was afraid of the retaliation. I was afraid of the patriarchy. I know what men can do when they're angry.” -Wendy Walsh, former FOX News contributor

“I was a smart young woman, who went to college and knew how to fight, yet still I was manipulated and conned.” -Selma Blair, actress

"If they couldn't stop us from talking, they were going to stop everyone from listening to us." - Jessica Cantlon, University professor

“I always thought maybe things could change for my daughter, I never thought things could change for me.” Megyn Kelly, journalist

“I’m here to give you permission to be angry. People are afraid, especially women. We’re conditioned since birth to be nice... People forget a lot that there is a human behind this, someone who was very hurt." Rose McGowan, actress

“I’m telling you, all the people who speak out: You are teaching people how to treat you. And you should not be shamed for that.” - Terry Crews, actor

“The shame is not ours to hold, the shame is on the perpetrator. #MeToo can be a conversation starter or it can be the whole conversation” -Tarana Burke, activist 

“I feel like the day that I spoke up and said 'You are a sexual harrasser', I changed.” Amanda Schmitt, art curator

"It's an honor to be the person who can say 'hey I spoke up about this.' I took on the risk" -Susan Fowler, former Uber engineer

Each person showed humanity and radiance when telling their story, serving as an example to rise above and take action.

I was amazed by the cover art: simple lighting, dark clothing, neutral makeup, bold stares. The women represent the abundance of stories featured in the article: fearless, strong, and powerful. Famous faces include Ashley Judd and Taylor Swift, who experienced sexual harassment in Hollywood, revealed that they had no one to really turn to. Their voices, along with others, certainly launched a movement.

Social activist Tarana Burke unleashed the #MeToo movement, encouraging people to not only tell their story, but post on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. By calling it like it is, rather than “misconduct” or “abuse” that’s thrown-around and discussed in the workplace, we’re putting a name on to the problem and facing it head on. This exposure of stories on the web opens the wave of conversation, leading us closer and closer to diminishing and destroying the issue.

The Joyful Heart Foundation, developed by Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order:SVU, posted on their Instagram, "We commend TIME for this choice and stand with every woman and man who added their voice to the #MeToo movement. Most of all, we believe in you." To all the "Silence-Breakers,both here in the article and in the world, your stories of rising above and confronting this issue are profound and powerful. Because no one deserves to have this pain inflicted on them, and everyone deserves to be heard.

Let's have more conversations and talk about how to end sexual harassment for good.