Have you heard of the movement ‘@everyones__invited’?

“We were not given a space to have complicated conversations about coercion, manipulation, respect, communication and consent”


CW: The following article mentions and contains themes of sexual violence.

You may have heard of UCL grad Soma Sara or you may have come across her Instagram page @yungjihu. Or maybe you haven’t.

If you haven’t or you’re not sure, then stop what you’re doing and give her a search on Insta because over lockdown she’s been using her stories to create a platform for people to voice their experiences with sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence.

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“Your body is your home and when you are assaulted, it makes you feel like your home has been invaded. Broken into and shattered. Never underestimate what that feels like. You arent entitled to anybody’s body ever. It is not your right. The more we teach people this, the more content things will start to change. It starts with you breaking down the stereotypes you are made to believe are true. Women are not asking for it. Coercion is not consent. Their reputation is not more important. Men get raped and assaulted too. Sexism still exists. @yungjihu and I are continuing to push every person story into the narrative, facilitate a space for open conversation and stop these experiences from happening again.” @iwanttoshag @ellie.softley

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Soma has been using her platform to spread awareness of this very prevalent problem we have in our society, a problem that does not seem to be going away nor improving.

You may have read this far and thought ‘this doesn’t apply to me’, ‘not this again’ or ‘this isn’t even a big problem’. But that’s where you’re wrong. Sexual assault, in any form, is something that affects everyone. Both women and men can be assaulted. Both women and men can be raped. This is the very real reality of so many peoples’ lives, and I can almost guarantee that you know at least one person who has been affected by sexual harassment, or worse.

Here are a few statistics to put it into perspective:

62% of university students and graduates have experienced some form of sexual violence in UK universities.

70% of women and 26% of men.

The most commonly experienced form of sexual assault was groping and unnecessary touching in a sexual manner. The most common campus locations where students experience sexual violence are halls of residence (28%), social events (24%) and university social spaces like bars, refectories and shops (23%).

(All figures are taken from Revolt Sexual Assault, based on a survey they carried out in 2018.)

As you can see, this issue affects a lot of people, perhaps more than you had initially thought. Often, sexual harassment or assault can result due to grey areas and a lack of education. This is why it is vital that we start open conversations to raise awareness and educate each other.

I got in touch with Soma to ask her a few questions about her project and her views on this topic:

1. What inspired you to start putting up these stories and then compiling them into highlights?

“Michaela Coel’s ‘I May Destroy You’, compelled me to not only re-evaluate every sexual encounter I’ve ever had but also reflect upon every day interactions.”

“Later, I spoke to my friends about this issue. We started listing all the times we felt dehumanised or belittled growing up. The list felt endless. At the time, I think we accepted this behaviour because it was pervasive and normalised. It was only till after I got to university that I realised that these attitudes were toxic. In hindsight I was convinced by the people around me and society in general into thinking that this behaviour was acceptable.”

 

2. Why do you think what you’re doing is important and needed?

 It’s important because it’s such a widespread issue. When you speak, and actually listen to women you realise that almost every other woman’s been raped yet no man knows a rapist.

The #metoo movement felt distant and centred on one extremely powerful, horrendous individual. If we focus this movement too much on the privileged and extreme cases we risk making these incidents seem like anomalies. Rape arises from rape culture – there are no degrees of distinction separating the two. Rape is everywhere and almost always perpetrated by someone the victim knows. People are raped by their friends, their co-workers, their partners, and their family members.”

 

3. What was your end goal, if you had one? What did you hope would be achieved by raising awareness?

“I wanted people to understand that rape isn’t one dimensional. It’s complex and nuanced- it’s not a binary problem. I also think it’s important for people to see that sexism and misogyny directly feed into rape culture, that these behaviours facilitate an environment that allows real violence to exist. Women are also guilty of contributing to this culture, their complicity is equally toxic. Like racism, these attitudes are completely internalised in all of us- we are all guilty of subconscious sexist impulses.”

 

4. Do you feel like you have achieved/are achieving this goal?

“I feel like my message has spread, I reached almost 9,000 accounts in a week and received over 300 responses. But this is by no means far enough. This issue is at every level of society. It exists everywhere, it is completely systemic and institutionalized. There is so much more work that needs to be done.”

“Due to the overwhelming response, I felt compelled to push this vital conversation as far as possible. Over the last month I have been working with some incredibly talented individuals to create a movement called ‘@everyones__invited’. This will be permanent platform for people to share their stories where we can learn, unlearn and support each other by tackling rape culture through conversation, education and support.”

5. Of course everything you receive is confidential, but were you surprised by the amount of responses from people you know/about people you know? (Both survivors and perpetrators). 

“Yes and no. No, because throughout my teenage years I heard rumours repeatedly so it wasn’t that surprising to see these names written down. However, the frequency and recursive nature of the accusations were indeed disturbing.”

“Yes, because many of these instances are perpetrated by ‘nice guys’. It is so important to acknowledge and understand that being nice in a public setting does not guarantee niceness in a private one. The ‘nice guy’ trope was brought up many times in my highlights- when people excuse their friend’s behaviour because they are ‘such a good guy’ and that ‘they would never do that’.”

 

6. What do you think of the phrases ‘sexual assault victim’ vs ‘sexual assault survivor’?

I think that both terms are important. ‘Victim’ to me suggests weakness- a feeling that is very real when someone has been violated. Whereas ‘survivor’ implies a sense of strength, courage and power. If we use both terms we can capture the evolving nature of the emotional journey that comes in the aftermath of sexual violence. I think it’s important to acknowledge that healing and recovery isn’t straight forward or easy. Trauma is different for everyone, it’s subjective to the individual and the circumstance, it can be delayed, overt, covert. It can also be a lifelong process.”

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“Being complicit in behaviour that happened in the past doesn’t make you a bad person. You have the opportunity to change, to recognise bad behaviour and stop it from going wrong. To speak up in the group chat, to have uncomfortable conversations with your male friends about sexism, misogyny, the way they talk about women and the way they treat them. This isn’t always about not calling girls sluts. This is about respecting boundaries, changing the language we use, listening to women’s experiences, asking women if they are okay if you see someone making them uncomfortable. This is about fighting the sexism and abuse that we don’t see in the media, it’s about challenging the everyday ingrained behaviour and language that we are taught from the day we are born and taking responsibility for your actions. It’s about recognising and taking action, saying no more, and helping to make the world a better place and it starts with you. It starts with you asking your male friends to reconsider their language or continue to check in with their sexual partners. It starts with you breaking down the stereotypes you are made to believe are true. Women are not asking for it. Coercion is not consent. Their reputation is not more important. Men get raped and assaulted too. Sexism still exists. @yungjihu and I are continuing to push every person story into the narrative, facilitate a space for open conversation and stop these experiences from happening again.” @iwanttoshag @ellie.softley

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7. Having heard so many peoples’ stories, where do you think the problem lies? What do you think we need to do as a society to make a difference?

 There is so much to do because this issue is, like racism, an insidious, systemic and cultural problem. We still live in a patriarchal society, every institution that exists was erected by and for the supremacy of white men.”

I believe that the root of the issue lies in sex education. We were not given a space to have complicated conversations about coercion, manipulation, respect, communication and consent. We need a comprehensive curriculum that equips students with critical tools to defend a more equal, empathetic and inclusive society.”

Some individuals are more concerned with being seen as a ‘good guy’ then actually pushing to create an environment where this kind of violence can’t thrive. This is a cultural issue that needs tackling on a cultural level, not merely an individual one. We should be adopting a no tolerance policy, both within ourselves and our friends. We must accept that we harbour sexist impulses, interrogate them, work to eradicate them, become accountable for them and then commit to reform. We must call out our peers and stop being friends with those who refuse to change. It’s so important to communicate, relate and move forward if we want to encourage long-term, sustainable change.”

You can find all of Soma’s stories in her highlights on her personal account @yungjihu. Additionally, her page @everyones__invited is up on Instagram, which you can go to to find out more about this important movement.

One last stat for you all to think about…

78% of people agreed that certain people blame the victim for the sexual violence they have experienced.

This is an alarmingly high percentage of people. This is often why those who have experienced sexual violence don’t feel like they can tell anyone. Victim blaming along with not being believed and the defence of ‘humour’ (e.g. “it’s only a bit of banter”), are the three main reasons for staying silent. But this must not and cannot continue if we want to grow and improve as a society. We must keep the conversation going. We must involve and educate others, and not only hold others accountable, but hold ourselves accountable. However, please remember to be sensitive when these issues are being raised and spoken about as you never know who might be involved in the conversation and what their history surrounding this topic is.

If you have been affected by the themes in this article, you can call the following helplines:

The Samaritans 116 123 or email them at [email protected]

Exeter Nightline 01392724000 (on the back of your student ID)

Devon Rape Crisis Phone: 01392 204 174 or go to their website https://devonrapecrisis.org.uk

Text ‘Shout’ to 85258 for free on networks owned by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone

Or visit:

exeter.ac.uk/wellbeing

exeter.ac.uk/sexual-misconduct

All statistics were taken from:

https://revoltsexualassault.com/research/