This has been a big year for Taylor Swift — she released her sixth studio album reputation and she went to court for a sexual assault case from 2013, during which she gave what many consider to be inspiring testimony. Despite all this, she declined to do any interviews all year, save for one she published herself in her reputation "magazine." She finally broke her silence in December when she was named among TIME's Persons of the Year.
The issue numerates all the "Silence Breakers" of the year. Swift is on this list because of her testimony at her trial in August. For the issue, the 28-year-old pop star — who is increasingly elusive — gave a candid interview specifically about the court case. In the interview, the ever-mercenary Swift doesn't mention reputation once. This was also the first time Swift spoke publicly about the 2013 incident, which involved DJ David Mueller reaching under her skirt when he posed for a picture with her.
"I figured that if [David Mueller] would be brazen enough to assault me under these risky circumstances and high stakes, imagine what he might do to a vulnerable, young artist if given the chance," Swift told TIME.
Swift's testimony in court made headlines because it was bold and even a little ahead of its time. In August, she told a room full of jurors that she would not be made to feel guilty for the downfall of Mueller's career, which suffered after Swift's complaints got him fired for groping her. This was pre-Weinstein, and pre-reputation. The case itself is symbolic of the power imbalance between men and women in the entertainment industry that now makes headlines just about every day. Mueller sued Swift two years after the incident, citing damages. In response, Swift countersued Mueller for a single dollar — a symbolic amount that Swift says Mueller still hasn't coughed up.
"When the jury found in my favor, the man who sexually assaulted me was court-ordered to give me a symbolic $1," Swift said in her interview. "To this day he has not paid me that dollar, and I think that act of defiance is symbolic in itself." Mueller repeatedly tried to make Swift shoulder the blame for his job loss, and Swift held her ground. (She also, according to her interview with TIME, used the word "ass" more than it had ever been used in the Colorado Federal Court.)
Swift's testimony was notable because it wasn't just about Swift. She used her highly visible platform to advocate for victims of sexual assault.
Said Swift in a statement released after the trial, "I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves." After the case, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network told ABC that its national hotline saw a 35 percent increase in calls in the weekend following the case.
"Seeing someone that they respect, that they identify with [state they've been assaulted], has a big impact," RAINN's president Scott Berkowitz explained. "I think that will encourage others to come forward."
This is what landed her on the cover of TIME. As a successful musician, Swift could have easily settled with Mueller and kept the case from headlines. Instead, she chose to break her silence, and in doing so, she might have inspired others to come forward.
"The brave women and men who have come forward this year have all moved the needle in terms of letting people know that this abuse of power shouldn’t be tolerated," Swift said of the current sexual assault watershed. "Going to court to confront this type of behavior is a lonely and draining experience, even when you win, even when you have the financial ability to defend yourself."
She added, "Even though awareness is higher than ever about workplace sexual harassment, there are still so many people who feel victimized, afraid, and silenced by their abusers and circumstances." Following her trial, Swift donated an unspecified amount to Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation, which focuses on transforming society's response to sexual assault.
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