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The most important woman on TIME's person of the year cover is the one we can't see.

There are recognisable faces on the cover of TIME magazine’s latest issue, which named the “Silence Breakers” – those who have spoken out about systemic sexual misconduct and harassment – the 2017 person of the year.

There’s Ashley Judd, the first high-profile woman to speak on the record to press about the harassment and abuse she says she experienced at the hands of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

There’s 27-year-old pop star Taylor Swift, who made headlines when she successfully counter-sued a Denver radio DJ who she says put his hand up her skirt and groped her during a photo opportunity before a concert.

There’s also some of the most powerful women in the media and business world: former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, whose essay sparked a wave of sexual-harassment revelations about the company; NBC anchor Megyn Kelly who complained to Fox News executives about her co-worker Bill O’Reilly’s treatment of women; and, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, who was one of around 20 women to accuse President Donald Trump of sexual harassment before his election.

But there’s one woman, positioned among the actors and activists and CEOs, the world won’t recognise.

That’s because her face is hidden.

On the magazine’s cover, we see just a glimpse of her elbow in the bottom right corner. It’s not a printing error, but instead a representation of the hundreds and thousands of woman who are yet to feel safe enough to share their own stories.

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time cover anonymous woman
Only a glimpse of the woman can be seen on the cover. Image via Time Magazine.

Speaking to Buzzfeed News about the cover, Time national correspondent Charlotte Alter said the inclusion of the anonymous woman was "very intentional".

"A huge part of this story is that, as much as the stigma around this has been removed this year because of the Me Too movement, it's still really difficult for a lot of women to come forward," she said.

"It's important to include people who have to stay anonymous for professional reasons, who don't have the resources to weather what would happen if they lost their job or they couldn't support their families.

"So we wanted to include people... to really reference the risk that these women are taking by speaking out about this."

time anonymous woman
"It's still really difficult for a lot of women to come forward." Image via Time Magazine.
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One woman who shared her story with TIME for the issue was a strawberry picker from Mexico who worked in California, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her family.

The woman, who uses the name Isabel Pascual, said she was stalked and harassed by her abuser in her own home.

After he threatened to come after her and her children if she ever told anyone of the abuse, she felt powerless to stop him.

Isabel Pascual Time
Isabel was too afraid to use her real name when sharing her story. Image via Time Magazine.

Another woman, a hospital worker from Texas, stayed silent after fearing she wouldn't be able to survive if she was forced to leave her job.

"I thought, What just happened? Why didn't I react? I kept thinking, Did I do something, did I say something, did I look a certain way to make him think that was O.K.?" the 28-year-old told the magazine after she was abused in her workplace by an executive.

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Another woman, a young Native American office worker, felt "trapped" when a co-worker allegedly began kissing and pressing himself against her.

With no HR department, the woman quit her job and didn't tell others about her experience, fearing her small, conservative reservation community wouldn't believe her.

"On the reservation, we keep to ourselves and don't really put too much out there," she told TIME.

"They're scared to do something like this because their parents say, 'You're not supposed to do that. You're not supposed to speak up'."

These women's stories serve as a powerful reminder that sexual harassment isn't just something that happens in the workplaces of celebrities or executives: it happens everywhere.

time anonymous woman
The anonymous women are a powerful reminder that many women are victims of harassment and abuse. Image via Time Magazine.

The viral spread of the #MeToo movement proved that almost every woman, and men, has their own story of feeling unsafe, harassed or even abused to tell.

But there's still work to be done, and the anonymous woman on the cover of Time is a tribute to the woman who, hopefully one day, will have no fear, shame or difficulty in coming forward and telling her story.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT.

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