The Silence Breakers

Time magazine has named its “Person of the Year.”  It is not Donald Trump.  But it is because Donald Trump so graphically demonstrated how a sexual predator thinks, how one sizes up its prey, how one moves in for the kill, and how one brags about his conquests afterward on that vulgar and now-infamous Access Hollywood tape that the national conversation about sexual harassment, rape, and the abuse of power has entered the mainstream, and America began to realize:  we have a problem.

When it was about pedophile priests… whew! it’s just those Catholics over there, not us, we don’t have a problem.  When it was about date rape… whew! it’s just those college kids over there, not us, we don’t have a problem.  But the Access Hollywood tape changed all that, because the president is always a national symbol of who and what we are.  Anyone, and I do mean anyone — because I know people close to me who voted for Donald Trump — who chose this man to be our leader needs to hang their head in shame because you chose an admitted sexual predator, a proud sexual predator.

Let’s dispense with the pleasantries thoughtful reader.  He didn’t just harass women, grope their behinds, or tell a suggestive joke in their presence that made them feel uneasy.  This is a man who was recorded on tape telling Billy Bush, then later dismissing it as the way guys talk in the locker room, that — and I am quoting the President of the United States — he "moved on her like a bitch.”  There is no economic plan, no social agenda, no defense posture, and no opponent unsavory enough to justify turning a blind eye to the indisputable fact that those are the words of a man who sees that which he desires as an object there for his taking with his supposedly superior prowess and cunning.

We are all made uncomfortable by talk about sex.  We giggle as children when the topic comes up, and we use euphemisms as adults to avoid the awkward unease of discussing the private in public.  But where does that leave the victim of sexual assault?  And especially the victim of someone with real or perceived power?  I so desperately need to tell you what happened to me, because it is too much for me to process alone; but you don’t want to hear what I’m saying because it makes you uncomfortable, and we’re all afraid of what he might do if the story gets out — people could be embarrassed, jobs could be lost, careers could be ended, lives could be ruined.  So we all agree, without ever saying the words, to stay silent.

But no more.

In arguably the most significant cultural shift since the 1960’s, women and men are talking.  Ashley Judd was one of the first women to come forward to talk about serial sexual predator and now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in early October; Taylor Swift accused former radio DJ David Mueller of groping her while taking a picture and won her lawsuit against him for $1 proving it’s not about the money but about being heard; former Uber engineer Susan Fowler spoke out about Uber’s culture of sexual harassment; while Visa lobbyist Adama Iwu led an effort exposing sexual misconduct in California politics; Isabel Pascual is a pseudonym for a Mexican woman who works picking strawberries who was sexually harassed and is part of an organization, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, consisting of 700,000 female farmworkers who issued a statement of solidarity and support for the Hollywood actors and actresses speaking out against sexual assault in advance of the “Take Back the Workplace” march in downtown Los Angeles last month, which reads in part:

Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security. Like you, there are few positions available to us and reporting any kind of harm or injustice committed against us doesn’t seem like a viable option. Complaining about anything — even sexual harassment — seems unthinkable because too much is at risk, including the ability to feed our families and preserve our reputations.

We understand the hurt, confusion, isolation and betrayal that you might feel. We also carry shame and fear resulting from this violence. It sits on our backs like oppressive weights. But, deep in our hearts we know that it is not our fault. The only people at fault are the individuals who choose to abuse their power to harass, threaten and harm us, like they have harmed you.

Time named The Silence Breakers the 2017 Person of the Year.

person-of-year-2017-time-magazine-cover1

Pictured on the cover — actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, Visa lobbyist Adama Iwu, and Mexican agricultural worker Isabel Pascual.

The woman featured to the right of the cover whose face cannot be seen represents the unnamed women — and men — who have yet to come forward or who come forward anonymously to tell their stories.

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