These nine women are among the countless number who taught us about true strength during this monumental year in herstory

By Lydia Price
December 31, 2017 02:52 PM
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These nine women are among the countless who taught us about true strength during this monumental year in herstory.

Gabrielle Union
Amid the cascade of sexual assault and harassment allegations that rocked entertainment, politics, publishing and other industries in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Being Mary Jane star released her book, We’re Going To Need More Wine, in which she recounts being raped at gunpoint at the age of 19. As the #MeToo campaign gained steam, Union also made a point of addressing the particular challenges women of color face when it comes to speaking up about sexual attacks.

“Each time I tell the story is a revelation that I need to keep sharing since there’s so many more victims than survivors,” Union told PEOPLE of opening up about being raped at the shoe store where she worked as a teen. “They need to know healing is a process — a slow process like moving a boulder uphill with one hand tied behind your back, but there is hope. I will never stop sharing, and I will try to educate as much as I can for the voiceless and for people who didn’t get my treatment.”

The actress later discussed the #MeToo movement during a sit down with The New York Times. “I think the floodgates have opened for white women,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.”

Ariana Grande
A suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured hundreds more at Grande’s May concert in Manchester, U.K. “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words,” she tweeted after the attack.

Just four days after the tragedy, the singer announced she would be putting on the One Love Manchester charity concert to benefit victims and their families.

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she wrote. “I’ll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families… We will continue in honor of the ones we lost, their loved ones, my fans and all affected by this tragedy. They will be on my mind and in my heart everyday and I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life.”

Grande closed out the charity concert with an emotional performance of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

In August, it was announced that the families of the 22 individuals who were killed would be receiving $324,000 each from the We Love Manchester fund, and that millions more would be spent on helping the injured.

The singer resumed her Dangerous Woman Tour in June, and, as her tour photographer Alfredo Flores told Refinery29, “set an example for all of us that fear doesn’t have to win.”

Selena Gomez and Francia Raisa
The “Bad Liar” singer revealed in September that her longtime friend, Francia Raisa, had given her a kidney.

“I’m very aware some of my fans had noticed I was laying low for part of the summer and questioning why I wasn’t promoting my new music, which I was extremely proud of,” she shared on Instagram. “So I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health…There aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa. She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis.”

During a joint interview on the Today show, Gomez and Raisa shared that they had been living together prior to the transplant.

“One day she came home and she was emotional. I hadn’t asked anything. I knew she hadn’t been feeling well,” Raisa said. “She couldn’t open a water bottle one day. She chucked it and she started crying. And I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and that’s when she told me. And she goes, ‘I don’t know what to do. The list is seven to 10 years long.’ It just vomited out of me: I was like, ‘Of course I’ll get tested.’

“I had to write a will, which was scary because there’s no guarantee I’ll wake up,” she added of the surgery.

In December, Raisa presented Gomez with Billboard‘s 2017 Woman of the Year award. “I think Francia should be getting this award,” the star said in her speech. “She saved my life.”

Aly Raisman
The Olympic gold medalist was among a group of more than 100 women, including Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney, who revealed they were sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

The athlete publicly released her victim impact statement, which detailed the effects of his abuse.

“Shame on you, Larry, you are the worst example of humanity,” she wrote in the statement. “You promised me that you would heal my injuries. You gave me gifts to make me think you were a good person, to make me believe you were my friend. You were nice so that we would trust you, to make it easier for you to take advantage of so many people, including me. But you lied to me. You lied to all of us.”

Raisman then addressed Nassar’s crimes during a speech at the November Glamour Women of the Year Awards.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Glamour

“Most people know me as a gymnast, but I am also a survivor,” she said. “I am among a huge number of young gymnasts abused by US Olympic and USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar. This man held a position of influence and power in the sport for more than 20 years. The extent of harm he caused is beyond comprehension. More than 130 young women have filed lawsuits alleging abuse by Nassar and we may never know how many others may be suffering in silence. I stand here for all of them.”

In December, the disgraced doctor was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possessing child pornography. He still faces additional pending charges of sexual assault.

Taylor Swift
In 2013, the Reputation singer took a photo with Colorado deejay David Mueller. Swift claims that while the picture was taken, Mueller reached under her skirt and grabbed her butt. After the star reported the incident to his station, Mueller was fired. He sued Swift for defamation after the incident, leading her to countersue for a symbolic $1. They finally faced one another in court in 2017.

“I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions — not mine,” Swift told Mueller’s attorney in court.

The Denver jury ruled in her favor, and she was awarded the $1.

After the case, Swift was among The Silence Breakers who were named TIME’s Person of the Year.

Alo Ceballos/GC Images

“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. It was important to report the incident to his radio station because I felt like they needed to know,” she told TIME about her decision to report.

“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 continued. “My mom was so upset after her cross-examination, she was physically too ill to come to court the day I was on the stand. 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.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
The Veep star announced that she is battling breast cancer in September. “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” she wrote on Instagram. “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”

Louis-Dreyfus proved her award-winning sense of humor had endured through her chemotherapy treatments in October.

“Chemo #2: finito. We are NOT f—ing around here. ‘I’ve got the eye of the tiger. The Fighter dancing through the fire cuz I am a champion and your’re going to hear me ROAR.’ Thanks to @mrtonyhale & @timothycsimons & @katyperry for their hilarious and loving inspiration,” she captioned a mustached Instagram photo.

The next month, she shared a giggle-inducing video message costars Sam Richardson and Matt Walsh sent to “psyche” her up for treatment.

Ashley Judd
Judd was one of the eight women who initially accused film executive Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in the bombshell New York Times exposé.

“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” the actress told the NYT. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”

Judd recalled going to a supposed business meeting with Weinstein at a Los Angeles hotel, only to have him show up in a bathrobe asking her to watch him shower. “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” she recalled thinking while feeling “panicky” and “trapped.”

Since the report featuring Judd’s story was published, more than 50 other Weinstein accusers, including Lupita Nyong’o, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne, Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek, have come forward.

In the wake of the ongoing allegations, Judd teamed up with Teen Vogue for a video about combatting unwanted sexual advances.

“Our bargaining strategies and things we do in these moments are normal. Anything we do in these situations is really okay,” she stressed in the video about varying reactions to harassment. “Feeling safe is everything. That’s essentially what is taken from us when we experience sexual harassment and micro-aggressions.”

Chrissy Teigen
The model/ cookbook author/ Lip Sync Battle commenter opened up about her struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety in a powerful March essay for Glamour.

“I looked at my doctor, and my eyes welled up because I was so tired of being in pain. Of sleeping on the couch. Of waking up throughout the night. Of throwing up. Of taking things out on the wrong people. Of not enjoying life. Of not seeing my friends. Of not having the energy to take my baby for a stroll,” she wrote of finally being diagnosed about six months after the birth of her daughter Luna. “My doctor pulled out a book and started listing symptoms. And I was like, ‘Yep, yep, yep.’ I got my diagnosis: postpartum depression and anxiety. (The anxiety explains some of my physical symptoms.)”

Teigen went on to explain why she decided to reveal her illness, despite feeling, “selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.”

“I’m speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody, and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone,” she said. “I also don’t want to pretend like I know everything about postpartum depression, because it can be different for everybody. But one thing I do know is that — for me — just merely being open about it helps.”