The Reckoning Continues: TIME Names Silence Breakers as Person of the Year

In the past few months, the structure of silence and shame imposed upon victims of sexual assault has started to crumble. It began in early October when the New York Times published the first formal accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. What followed was something no one saw coming: the #metoo movement. Millions of women from all over the world and all backgrounds came together in solidarity to acknowledge their own experiences and/or support others with their struggles. It upended one industry after another; many previously beloved stars and trusted reporters finally answered for their behavior. TIME  recently gave the extraordinary women who broke down these barriers the honor Person of the Year.

The “Silence Breakers” cover features six women, one of whom is partially off the page. Taylor Swift, who filed a lawsuit against an ex-DJ who groped her at a meet and greet four years ago, stands proudly on the cover. Swift asked for just $1 in the lawsuit, so it was evident that she did it not for the money but for the symbolic value of holding people accountable for unwarranted sexual behavior. She was one of the many who opened up the door for sexual assault victims; she gave many other women the courage to come forward and stand up to their abusers. Ashley Judd also stands steadfast on the cover. She was one of the first women to formally accuse Harvey Weinstein; and like Swift, she, too, gave many other actresses the support they needed to speak out about what Weinstein and many others had done. Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler joins them on the cover after her account of sexual harassment within the company. The allegation led Uber to fire their former CEO, Travis Kalanick, in addition to over 20 other employees. Strawberry picker Isabel Pascual (whose name is changed to protect her identity), far left on the cover, spoke at a rally to help encourage her fellow agricultural workers to be strong and to come forward, once again giving a voice to the voiceless. Lobbyist Adama Iwu also graced the cover; she brought an open letter to the California Senate about harassment in the California Capitol, which led to an investigation and empowered over 140 women to come forward.

The final woman on the cover, who remains mostly out of frame, was included as a mark of solidarity to those who are still silent. It is a reminder that we must continue fuel the movement, and more importantly, that we all must stand with both women who have come forward and those who have not. Although millions of women have spoken out, there are millions more who cannot because of fear or lack of resources. TIME included a symbol for these women in their story, as they are as much a part of this as those who have spoken up. An accuser of Roy Moore, the recently defeated Alabama Senate candidate who allegedly made advances on a 14-year-old during his 30s, spoke in an interview about how she fears public spaces because of the backlash she has experienced after coming forward. #MeToo is the first step in a long process; we still have plenty of work to do when it comes to creating a society in which women feel safe speaking up for themselves and speaking out against those who abuse them.

TIME also included encounters of countless more women in their cover story. Their accounts are chilling, but one can’t help but be awed by their resilience, courage and bravery. Sexual assault is a pervasive part of our culture, and it’s high time we began to dismantle the mechanisms that perpetuate it. It may be something as simple as a hashtag on Twitter, or it may be as monumental as an international magazine cover, but every person and every effort matters. Don’t forget that standing with these victims plays a vital role in the process, too. They feel the impact even if you aren’t a victim yourself.

Cover Photo from Time