Forty-three years after the first speak-out on sexual harassment, women today are speaking out en masse about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault as part of the #MeToo movement. Over one full year since its explosion on social media—and the subsequent upheaval it brought to various workplaces—I want to take this opportunity to thank and celebrate the strength and courage of women who stepped forward to tell their stories.
Some may be discouraged that we still have so far to go, over 40 years after women first began speaking out about sexual harassment—but social change is slow (it took 72 years for women to win the vote), and sexual abuse is deeply rooted in American society.
We are in the middle of this fight, and we should be encouraged about the progress we’ve made. 2018 was a powerful year for survivors, advocates and their allies—and these ten sheroes led the way. Together, they ushered in major victories, shattered long-held silences and paved the way for more action in the coming new year.
#1: The Silence Breakers
The Time magazine 2017 persons of the year—“The Silence Breakers”—included not just celebrities, but women from dozens of industries. Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Taylor Swift were honored alongside farmworker Isabel Pascual, housekeeper Juana Melara, Uber engineer Susan Fowler, dishwasher Sandra Pezqueda, hotel barista Nerexda Soto and Me Too founder Tarana Burke.
#2: Mónica Ramírez
The co-founder and president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Alliance of Farmworkers) wrote the Dear Sisters letter to Hollywood celebrities that resulted in the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund—which has since raised over $22 million and organized over 780 attorneys to provide legal help to over 3,700 women.
#3: Roy Moore’s Accusers
Leigh Corfman, Wendy Miller, Debbie Wesson Gibson, Gloria Thacker Deason, Beverly Young Nelson, Tina Johnson, Gena Richardson and Becky Gray took on rape culture in Alabama—and won. The eight women who spoke out about Roy Moore sexually abusing them when they were teenagers refused to be silence, and successfully convinced their neighbors and community members to stop supporting the far-right politician, who had been twice removed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama for refusing to obey civil and LGBTQ rights rulings and policies, helping to elect Democrat Doug Jones in a special election for the Senate seat vacated by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
#4: The Survivors Who Took Down Larry Nassar
Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse U.S. Olympic doctor Larry Nassar; U.S. Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Jamie Dantzscher; and hundreds of other athletes and survivors spoke up about their experiences of sexual abuse during Nassar’s court hearings. Their truth shook the country, and their victim impact statements made headlines and spurred action. Nassar was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison; USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Michigan State University campus where Nassar was employed also faced scrutiny and were held to account after his trial.
#5: Andrea Constand, Dozens of Other Public Survivors and an Empty Chair
Over 40 women had publicly told their stories of sexual abuse by Bill Cosby in pursuit of long-delayed justice—and this year, Cosby was finally convicted and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand.
#6: Maryland Delegate Ariana B. Kelly
The President of the Women Legislators of Maryland has spoken out about sexual harassment by Maryland legislators—and her activism has resulted in an overhaul to sexual harassment policies in the state legislature.
#7: Anna Chambers
After two cops in their thirties raped 18-year-old Chambers after they arrested her for marijuana possession, she filed charges. Her case led to a new law in New York banning police from having sex with people in custody.
#8: Marissa Hoechsetter
Along with 16 other (anonymous) women, Hoechsetter is suing Columbia University Irving Medical Center for ignoring reports of sexual misconduct for over 20 years by OB/GYN doctor Robert Haddon. She has also spoken out about doctor sexual abuse in Ms., Bustle and Medium—opening up the #MeToo movement to scores of survivors, and expanding conversations around violence and harassment in the process.
#9: Survivors of Priest Sexual Abuse
The thousands of people reporting and fighting priest sexual abuse and the activism of SNAP in supporting and advocating for survivors of priest sexual abuse, is now leading to overdue action at the Vatican, in Pennsylvania and across the country and the world.
#10: Brett Kavanaugh’s Accusers
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez and Julie Swetnick risked everything when they came forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual harassment and assault. Their courage, their strength and their voices will never be forgotten—and invigorated an even more powerful movement for accountability and justice for survivors everywhere.