Every year-end, TIME magazine selects an influential individual as Person of the Year.

In 2015, it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her commitment to accepting refugees. Last year, the magazine picked U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for his "accomplishment" of dividing the nation by winning the presidential election.

But this year, five women made the TIME cover by edging out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other candidates.

Dubbed "The Silence Breakers," the group includes an actress who testified against an influential film executive over allegations of sexual misconduct.

But these are not the only people who started going public as victims of sexual abuse. The hashtag "MeToo" went viral on social media, empowering countless other individuals to come forward and start a movement.

I imagine that the originator of this hashtag must have hoped that if every victim declared themselves as one of countless victims, the gravity of the problem would not be lost on the public at large.

The movement has indeed gone global, exposing powerful men--including high-profile politicians and world-class orchestra conductors. And women in Japan, too, have begun to speak out (http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201712220046.html).

One individual takes the first courageous step, inspiring another to follow suit. This is the chain reaction that has been triggered around the world. It reminds me of a baton relay race, or a road being laid with one paving stone after another.

One by-product of this is the "ChurchToo" hashtag. Many cases of clergy sexual abuse of children have been exposed in Europe and the United States.

The Asahi Shimbun recently reported that a Catholic priest intimidated his victims into silence by telling them that "God would be angry" if they blabbed.

"If you reveal the secret, your career will suffer." "You'll only bring shame upon yourself." "Nobody will ever believe you."

Probably, all these "myths" have been going around in all forms, binding victims to silence. But the fog that used to shroud both men and women is perhaps starting to clear now, bit by bit.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 26

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.