Thursday, December 07, 2017

Time gives rural America its due in 'Person of the Year' story about 'The Silence Breakers'

Isabel Pascual (Time photo)
When Time magazine announced that its Persons of the Year were "The Silence Breakers," the victims of sexual harassment and assault who came forward with their stories, some were quick to dismiss it as a celebrity-oriented movement. Yes, two women on the cover are entertainers Ashley Judd and Taylor Swift. But sexual misconduct affects men and women all over the country, and the story included rural residents and concerns.

On the left side of the cover photo is a woman, originally from Mexico, who picks strawberries in California. Her name is given as Isabel Pascual, but it's a pseudonym to protect her family from reprisal after she spoke out about the dangers faced by migrant farmworkers.

An anonymous victim from rural
Texas, on the cover. (Time photo)
And at the far right, not even a face: an elbow. Time explained in an editorial that the arm belongs to an anonymous young hospital worker from Texas who fears that coming forward about being harassed would subject her family to reprisal. "She is faceless on the cover and remains nameless inside Time’s red borders, but her appearance is an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities," Melissa Chan writes for the magazine.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough addressed the point directly yesterday during a "Morning Joe" interview with some of the editors at Time: "So the question is, we certainly have heard from a lot of people who've been harassed by famous people in the media and politics and in Hollywood. How does this movement spread to Middle America, where people who aren't working for the rich and famous get just as much justice from somebody that's harassing them in Demopolis, Alabama?"

The magazine's representation of the anonymous Native American
Kira Pollack, director of photography and visual enterprise at Time, replied, "It was really important to us to report not only the famous and the notable but also the unknown, the women who represent a much larger swath of the culture." For example, a young Native American office assistant who spoke to the magazine said she quit her job after a co-worker began harassing her. She says she felt trapped because she didn't think her colleagues or family on her small, conservative reservation would believe her.

Sexual harassment or assault survivors in rural areas may face additional obstacles because of "limited access to support services for victims, familial connections with those in positions of authority, a lack of cultural acceptance for alternative lifestyles, distance, transportation barriers, the stigma of abuse, lack of available shelters, and poverty as a barrier to care, among other challenges," the Rural Health Information Hub reports. "In small communities there is often an overlap among health-care providers, law enforcement officers, and abuse victims. Therefore, some people may be reluctant to report abuse, fearing that their concerns will not be taken seriously or that their reputations may be damaged."

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