Time magazine names sexual abuse 'Silence Breakers' as Person of the Year

AFP
Thursday, Dec 07, 2017
Photo: Reuters

Time magazine named as Person of the Year Wednesday "the silence breakers" who triggered a national reckoning by revealing the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, assault and abuse in US life.

President Donald Trump was runner-up in the prestigious ranking, ahead of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Time designated as "silence breakers" the individuals, mostly women, who came forward this year to publicly expose patterns of sexual harassment, assault and even rape by some of society's most powerful public figures.

Those recognised by Time range from famous actresses who took on disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein to ordinary women who shared their stories of abuse using the hashtag #MeToo and its foreign language equivalents.

The accusations against Weinstein, who has denied wrongdoing, proved a tipping point for a flood of sordid revelations involving other titans of Hollywood, big business, politics and the news media.

Many once-admired leaders in their fields have been fired or suspended, their brilliant careers in tatters.

One of the figures singled out by Time, Ashley Judd was the first actress to come forward on the record to make accusations against the 65-year-old Weinstein.

She was followed by more than a hundred others, and a watershed moment began.

"When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who's been quietly enduring for years," a Time article read.

"This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries.

"These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought."

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In part two of the New York Times' explosive expose chronicling decades of sexual harassment allegations waged against studio mogul Harvey Weinstein- several actresses went public with their stories for the first time.

Gwyneth Paltrow: "I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified," Paltrow said about her experience as a then 22-year-old on the set of 1996's Emma.

Anjelina Jolie recalled a similar incident. "I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did," Jolie said in an e-mail to the Times.

Italian film star Asia Argento, the 42-year-old daughter of iconic horror director Dario Argento, said Weinstein forced oral sex on her 20 years ago. She told the publication she had maintained her silence until now for fear that Weinstein would "crush" her.

Model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a former Miss Italy finalist, told the New Yorker she met Weinstein March 2015 at a reception for a show he was producing in New York. She said Weinstein "lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt" at a meeting in his offices in Tribeca.

French actress Judith Godreche met Weinstein for breakfast at a hotel in 1996. He later invited her up to his suite to see the "view". But he later asked for a massage and pressed himself against Godreche, even pulling off her sweater.

Rosanna Arquette: In the early 1990s, Weinstein asked the young actress to stop by a hotel in Beverly Hills to pick up a script. She remembers telling him "I'm not that girl," after he asked her for a massage.

Rose McGowan: The actress reportedly reached a US$100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997, after an "episode in a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival".

Ashley Judd: The accused Weinstein of inviting her to his hotel room, appearing in a bathrobe, offering her a massage, and asking her if she wanted to watch him take a shower.

Former actress and screenwriter Louisette Geiss held a news conference where she alleged that her encounter with Weinstein took place at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He invited her to his office for a meeting, and soon excused himself and returned naked, wearing only a bathrobe. He later asked that she watch him masturbate.

Mira Sorvino: The actress starred in several of Weinstein's films, told The New Yorker that he sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into a physical relationship while they worked together.

British actress Romola Garai told The Guardian she felt "violated" following a meeting with Harvey Weinstein in his London hotel room when she was 18 in which he was in a bathrobe. Garai said that once she was in the room the two had a brief discussion about film but she felt "belittled" by his "abuse of power."

Model and actress Cara Delevingne accused Weinstein of propositioning her and attempting to kiss her after a meeting about an upcoming film. "He said to me that if I was gay or decided to be with a woman especially in public, that I'd never get the role of a straight woman or make it as an actress in Hollywood," Delevingne said in a statement.

French actress Lea Seydoux became the latest in a string of female Hollywood stars speaking out against Weinstein. Also subjected to his advances, she alleged "everyone" in Hollywood "knew what Harvey was up to".

In a revealing piece written for Variety, Heather Graham revealed that Weinstein asked her to have sex with him in exchange for being included in his movie in the early 2000s. He told Graham that he had an agreement with his wife in which he could sleep with whomever he wanted whenever he was out of town. "I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy," Graham wrote.

Kate Winslet has revealed in an interview with Los Angeles times why she didn't thank the disgraced film producer in her 2009 Oscars speech. "That was deliberate. That was absolutely deliberate," Winslet said. "I remember being told. 'Make sure you thank Harvey if you win'. And I remember turning around and saying, 'No I won't. No I won't.' ... If people aren't well-behaved, why would I thank him?""

British actress Lysette Anthony said he had attacked her in her London home in the late '80s. Anthony said It happened after she had got to know the producer when she starred in the 1982 film Krull, according to The Telegraph.

Kate Beckinsale also came forward about Weinstein sexually harassing her when she was just 17 and hampering her career. She posted her statement to Instagram with a picture of her as a teenager and wrote that when she was called to meet him at the Savoy Hotel in London, Weinstein opened the door in a bathrobe. She left the room "uneasy but unscathed".

Actress Eva Green has said she felt "shocked and disgusted" after an encounter with Weinstein in which she allegedly had to "push him off" during a business meeting. The Bond girl gave her statement after her mother told a French radio that her daughter "was a victim of this horrible man".

The Person of the Year announcement came as The New York Times published a report detailing a widespread "complicity machine" of powerful relationships that enabled Weinstein to silence or intimidate his accusers for years.

Weinstein has denied via his lawyers and spokespeople that he engaged in any non-consensual behaviour. He has not been charged with any crimes, though investigations have been launched in London, Los Angeles and New York.

Open secrets

A number of men also have revealed they were victims of sexual abuse, including Anthony Rapp, who accused Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey of making sexual advances on him when he was a teenager.

More than a dozen men have since come forward with similar accusations against Spacey, some of whom were teens at the time of the alleged abuse.

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On Time's cover is a composite group photograph featuring Judd, along with singer Taylor Swift and ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler.

"The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover... along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said in a statement.

Calling #MeToo a "powerful accelerant," Felsenthal noted that the hashtag has been used millions of times in at least 85 countries.

"The idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year," Felsenthal said.

"For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year."

Time has designated an individual or group who has most influenced the year's news and events as Person of the Year since 1927.

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