Time’s 2017 Person of the Year helps break the stigma of sexual assault

This image provided by Time magazine, shows the cover of the magazine's Person of the Year edition as "The Silence Breakers," those who have shared their stories about sexual assault and harassment. (Time Magazine via AP)

Over the past few weeks there has been much controversy revolving around who would be named ‘2017 Person of the Year’ by Time magazine, despite the fact that the announcement was not made until Wednesday. This highly anticipated annual issue of the magazine is dedicated to something within the past year that has been the most influential on the world, whether that be a person, group, idea, or object. This year, the issue focused on a group: The Silence Breakers.

The Silence Breakers is a movement that Time is recognizing as “the individuals who set off a national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment” in 2017. Typically, the Time Person of the Year is not a group of individuals but a singular person like Pope Francis in 2013, Angela Merkel in 2015, and Donald Trump in 2016. However, there have been other instances of groups being the honorees before, such as “The Ebola Fighters” being named in 2014 and “The Peacemakers” being named in 1993. This year, members of the #MeToo campaign, which sought to raise awareness and showcase the number of people affected by sexual harassment throughout their lifetimes, need to be recognized as publicizing a very important topic that many are too afraid to speak on.

The Person of the Year title is one that is sought after by many and this year was no different. The shortlist for the distinction included many other individuals and groups that have also had an impressively large impact on the world such as Colin Kaepernick, Robert Mueller, Jeff Bezos, and President Donald Trump. However, above all of these people, the #MeToo movement prevailed, showing just how much this issues of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault scandals have affected us this year.

In choosing The Silence Breakers as the “Person of the Year”, Time is showing that they too are ready to break the silence and speak on this issue. After the events of the past few months since the information about Harvey Weinstein came to light, an incredibly large amount of people around the world have felt empowered to speak. However, there also been many that have been victimized for coming forward with their stories, because they involve high-profile celebrities or politicians. Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican nominee for state senate who has been accused of multiple counts of sexual assault, along with his supporters have actually said that the women that accused Moore should be prosecuted, rather than investigating Moore himself.

This attitude of victim blaming has brought shame and fear to many who have suffered through sexual harassment and assault experiences. For a person to feel as though they have been violated in a way that is completely inappropriate and personal is horrible enough on its own. But then, to have the victim fear that it was their fault, or be too ashamed or scared of the consequences to reporting their assault is the exact opposite of the message we should be supporting.

In selecting The Silence Breakers as the “Person of the Year” Time is taking a big step in helping to empower people who have gone through experiences of sexual harassment and assault and to show others that sharing these experiences is not shameful. Sexual harassment and assault can sometimes make victims feel powerless, and many victims who have come forward to share their feelings and stories have perpetuated this thought (http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/). Through this dedication, Time is telling all victims that they have more support than they realize, and are allowed to feel powerful even when everything else is telling them they aren’t.

To stand up, band together, and fight for your own rights is not an easy task, and I in no way mean to insinuate that overcoming sexual harassment is an easy task. However, there is strength in numbers. Being able to realize that you are not alone when you go through something like this is one of the first steps in gaining the confidence to fight back, and that is exactly the idea that the #MeToo movement is helping to spread.

Sexual harassment is an issue that is deeply ingrained in our society, and unfortunately one that will not just go away overnight, but, in selecting The Silence Breakers as the “Person of the Year 2017” Time is helping to spread the message that this is not to be tolerated anymore. It requires a strong group of people to make a change in this world, and there is no group stronger, braver, or more deserving of this title than those who have stood up for victims everywhere.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.