(NBC) — “The Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo movement, who gave a voice to sexual assault and harassment survivors — and shown them that they are not alone — is Time’s 2017 Person of the Year, the magazine revealed exclusively Wednesday morning on “Today.”
While the concept of #MeToo was started years ago by activist Tarana Burke, its use became part of the national conversation in October after celebrities on social media used it to share their own sexual abuse stories in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. The wave of stories prompted people from all walks of life to add their voice to the movement.
Time’s cover story features some of the women who spoke out against Weinstein, the former Hollywood movie producer who resigned from his studio in October and faces more than 80 sexual misconduct allegations dating back to the 1970s.
Actress Rose McGowan, who settled with Weinstein in 1997 after accusing him of rape, has said she wanted to expose how Hollywood propagates a culture of silence in order to protect the powerful. And it’s not just the entertainment industry, but assault occurs in boardrooms and the corridors of Washington.
“The number of people sharing their stories with me is so intense, especially since all of this is incredibly triggering for me as well,” she told Time. “People forget a lot that there’s a human behind this, someone who is very hurt.”
Weinstein has denied all allegations that he engaged in non-consensual sex with women, and no criminal charges have been brought against him.
Burke told Time that the stigma for sexual assault victims has long been a badge of disgrace, but now the tide has shifted.
“Sexual harassment does bring shame,” Burke said. “And I think it’s really powerful that this transfer is happening, that these women are able not just to share their shame but to put the shame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.”
The #MeToo movement was selected for Time’s annual honor, ahead of a shortlist that included North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller, and last year’s Person of the Year, President Donald Trump.