Photo Credit: Everyone’s Invited
TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault, Rape, Abuse and Sexual Violence
In their own words, Everyone’s Invited is a movement ‘committed to eradicating rape culture’. In June 2020, Soma Sara shared her experience with rape culture on Instagram, in response to which she began receiving messages: both from people who her story resonated with, and from people sharing their own experiences. Immediately, Everyone’s Invited was born.
According to the NHS website, sexual assault is ‘any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will’. Consent, as defined by section 74 Sexual Offences Act 2003, is only present if the person agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Consent is not a one definition fits all: it may be given by someone for one thing, but not for another thing; It may be given then taken away; It may be fluid depending on the situation. If consent is not present, and the ‘suspect’ (the person accused of sexual assault) is found to have acted without a person’s consent, then they have committed sexual assault.
The inflexibility of this definition infers a discernible polarisation when recognising sexual assault, but it is much more complex. Today, we are entangled with ‘rape culture’: ‘when sexual violence is condoned and normalised through societal attitudes, actions and structures’. Consequently, our society risks being segmented into two juxtaposing perspectives: the perpetrators who maintain the toxicity fuelling ‘rape culture’ and the victims, who consequently face difficulty when understanding, recognising and reporting ‘sexual assault’. As shown by the testimonies on Everyone’s Invited, this is not a new problem.
The ‘Survivor Testimonies’ section on Everyone’s Invited has pages and pages of submissions, from people sharing their personal experience with sexual violence and assault. To be precise, there are 13,933 submissions. Scrolling through each page, the breadth and depth of each submission vary – reports from a young age, from primary school, from senior school, from university. People are coming together, sharing their experience, gaining strength in numbers.
But there shouldn’t be numbers, there shouldn’t be pages, there shouldn’t be variety in all of these people who have experienced sexual assault and/or sexual violence. Everyone’s Invited is an invaluable movement and is the first step to try and begin changing the numbers. Education is a prominent step in this.
Combatting sexual assault and harassment in schools is a crucial step in installing the correct values into the future generation. The normalisation and tolerance surrounding the phrase ‘boys will be boys’, in line with misogynistic stereotypes, which is seen and repeated in schools must be addressed; action towards this is overdue. Yet sexual assault and sexual violence is not gendered, and this myth must be broken too. Boys are also victims.
In response to the testimonies on Everyone’s Invited, the NSPCC has been commissioned by the DfE to set up an independent helpline for ‘children, parents and professionals to seek expert, sensitive advice from the NSPCC and safely report abuse that has happened or is happening in educational settings’.
This helpline is: 0800 136 663 and runs Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm on the weekends.
The change we need to see is possible; it is important; and, crucially, we are on our way to making it.
You can find the site here: https://www.everyonesinvited.uk
Words By Hannah Emery