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Time 'Person of the Year' Cover's Stray Elbow Is Actually a Powerful Statement About Reporting Sexual Assault

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On Wednesday, Time announced its “Person of the Year” for 2017: “The Silence Breakers” — those who spoke out about sexual assault this year. Almost immediately after the magazine shared a photo of its cover, people began to notice something strange. The person featured in the lower righthand corner was cropped, leaving just their elbow exposed.

“Really loving the new Time Magazine cover, but my sympathies to whoever thought they were going to be on the cover of Time but ended up being cropped down to an elbow,” one commenter shared on Twitter.

While this crop might seem like an error, the elbow’s inclusion was intentional.

“The stray elbow on Time’s Person of the Year cover is meant to include victims of sexual harassment who have to stay anonymous: It’s still really difficult for a lot of women to come forward,” Charlotte Alter, Time’s national correspondent, told BuzzFeed News.

“She too is a victim of sexual harassment but was there anonymously, she said, as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out,” Time said.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), approximately two out of every three sexual assaults go unreported. There are a number of reasons why people decide not to report — from fear of testifying or concerns their attacker might retaliate — all valid concerns considering that out of every 1,000 rapes only six perpetrators will go to jail.

Not everyone thought the stray elbow was an error. Many people applauded the magazine for giving a voice to those currently unable to speak up.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Originally published: December 6, 2017
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