TIME‘s Person of the Year is not just an individual, but a brave group: The Silence Breakers. Taylor Swift is one of those people, appearing on the magazine cover nearly four months after a jury in Denver ruled that a former radio host, David Mueller, assaulted Swift at a concert meet-and-greet event in June 2013.
“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,” Swift told TIME for the issue. “When the jury found in my favor, the man who sexually assaulted me was court-ordered to give me a symbolic $1. To this day he has not paid me that dollar, and I think that act of defiance is symbolic in itself.”
Mueller sued Swift for defamation after he lost his job — Swift privately reported to Mueller’s radio station that he reached under her skirt and grabbed her rear end — but Swift countersued. “I figured that if he 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,” she explained to TIME.
Leading up to her day in court in August, Swift “spent two years reading headlines referring to it as ‘The Taylor Swift Butt Grab Case’ with internet trolls making a joke about what happened to me,” but she found the tide soon changed. “There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when I was named as the defendant,” said Swift. “Once it hit the news that I was in Denver dealing with this, there was an outpouring of support on social media and I have never appreciated it more. I spoke to Kesha on the phone and it really helped to talk to someone who had been through the demoralizing court process.” (Swift gave Kesha $250,000 during her legal battle with Dr. Luke, whom Kesha has accused of sexual assault and abuse — claims Luke, real name Lukasz Gottwald, has denied.)
Swift went into detail about what she was thinking during her bold testimony, which was praised online. “When I testified, I had already been in court all week and had to watch this man’s attorney bully, badger and harass my team including my mother over inane details and ridiculous minutiae, accusing them, and me, of lying,” she explained, going on to note that her mom was “physically too ill” to appear in court during her daughter’s testimony.
Added Swift: “I was angry. In that moment, I decided to forego any courtroom formalities and just answer the questions the way it happened. This man hadn’t considered any formalities when he assaulted me, and his lawyer didn’t hold back on my mom — why should I be polite? I’m told it was the most amount of times the word ‘ass’ has ever been said in Colorado Federal Court.”
Swift also shared with TIME what she learned after emerging from the ordeal victorious. “My advice is that you not blame yourself and do not accept the blame others will try to place on you,” she said. “You should not be blamed for waiting 15 minutes or 15 days or 15 years to report sexual assault or harassment, or for the outcome of what happens to a person after he or she makes the choice to sexually harass or assault you.”
Read the rest of TIME‘s profile on Taylor Swift here.