Time Announces 2017 Person of the Year: 'The Silence Breakers'

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TIME

Time magazine has named "The Silence Breakers" -- those who set off a national focus for sexual harassment and assault -- as its 2017 Person of the Year.

The magazine said it's "unsurprising" that the year began with the women's march in Washington, D.C., and ended with women speaking out about experiences with sexual harassment and assault.

Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Isabel Pascual are on the cover of the magazine and were chosen to represent hundreds of women who have broken their silence this year.

Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal called the movement, "one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s."

"It became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning," he wrote. "But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.

"The biggest test of this movement will be the extent to which it changes the realities of people for whom telling the truth simply threatens too much."

The movement sparked the online hashtag #MeToo, which was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano after the first accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein broke.

Seven current and former employees of New York City's Plaza Hotel—from left: Veronica Owusu, Gabrielle Eubank, Crystal Washington, Dana Lewis, Paige Rodriguez, Sergeline Bernadeau and Kristina Antonova—filed a suit against the hotel for “normalizing and trivializing sexual assault” among employees there. "I am a single mother. I have an 11-year-old daughter, and she’s depending on me,” says Lewis, who still works at the hotel to make ends meet. “My entire life revolves around her. I wasn’t really left with the option of leaving. I’m not left with the option of giving up. I want to show her that it’s O.K. to stand up for yourself. If you keep fighting, eventually you’ll see the sun on the other side." (Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Plaza, said it takes remedial action against harassment when warranted.) The Plaza Hotel Plaintiffs are among the Silence Breakers, TIME's Person of the Year. Read the full story on TIME.com. Photograph by Billy & Hells for TIME. #TIMEPOY

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"I woke up and there were 32,000 replies in 24 hours," Milano said. "And I thought, My God, what just happened? I think it's opening the floodgates."

Time said the movement against sexual misconduct has been simmering for decades and that as powerful men in various industries have been fired over allegations -- including former NBC Today host Matt Lauer and actor Kevin Spacey -- women are "gathering strength by the day."

Wednesday's announcement also notes euphemisms used to "downplay the pain" of experiencing sexual harassment.

"Harassment becomes "inappropriate behavior," assault becomes "misconduct," rape becomes "abuse," Time said. "We're accustomed to hearing those softened words." The magazine said such soft language is why President Donald Trump's words on the infamous Access Hollywood tape was "such a jolt."

"All social movements have highly visible precipitating factors, "Aldon Morris, professor of sociology at Northwestern University, said. "In this case, you had Harvey Weinstein, and before that you had Trump."

Runners-up for Time's yearly honor included Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and football player Colin Kaepernick.

By Sara Shayanian