Before the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke, and before #MeToo swept the Internet, Taylor Swift testified in court on Aug. 10 about being assaulted in a room full of people. Swift, who TIME recognized as one of the Silence Breakers who inspired women to speak out about harassment in this year’s Person of the Year issue, granted TIME her first interview since the trial.
In 2013, the singer-songwriter took a photo with a Colorado radio DJ after an interview. During that photo, Swift says, DJ David Mueller reached under her skirt and grabbed her rear end. Swift privately reported the incident to the station at which Mueller worked, and he was fired. Mueller then sued Swift for defamation; she countersued for a symbolic $1—and won.
Swift refused to be bullied on the stand. Her straightforward testimony was lauded by many for its fierceness. When asked why the pictures taken during the assault didn’t show the front of her skirt wrinkled as evidence of any wrongdoing, she said simply, “Because my ass is located at the back of my body.” When asked if she felt guilty about Mueller losing his job, she said, “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.”
Like many of the women interviewed for the 2017 Person of the Year issue, Swift would not accept blame for the abuse she experienced. Her clear-eyed testimony marked one of several major milestones in the conversation around sexual harassment this year. Swift responded to questions about her experience from TIME in writing.
Why was it important for you to come forward about what happened to you?
In 2013, I met a DJ from a prominent country radio station in one of my pre-show meet and greets. When we were posing for the photo, he stuck his hand up my dress and grabbed onto my ass cheek. I squirmed and lurched sideways to get away from him, but he wouldn’t let go. At the time, I was headlining a major arena tour and there were a number of people in the room that saw this plus a photo of it happening. 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. The radio station conducted its own investigation and fired him. Two years later, he sued me.
How did you feel when you testified?
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. 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.
Watch: Why the Silence Breakers Are the 2017 Person of the Year
How have people responded to your story?
People have been largely very…