• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Instagram account shines light on institutional rape culture

ByFreya Buxton

Apr 5, 2021
Image shows Soma Sara

TW: rape, sexual assault

Following the murder of Sarah Everard, the online platform Everyone’s Invited has seen a surge in testimonies of sexual assault linked to schools and universities across the UK.

The website, founded in June 2020 by Soma Sara, invites people to submit anonymous testimonies of rape culture associated with schools or universities. 

Currently the website has seen 5,718 such accounts.

The website began after founder Soma Sara shared her experiences of rape culture on Instagram, gaining support from friends and strangers who shared anonymous messages of their own experiences. 

Speaking to Mariella Frostrup on the The Times Radio, Sara emphasised the need to improve education surrounding rape culture, particularly among young boys, and described how Everyone’s Invited advocates the importance of sharing testimonies as part of the education process. 

The page reads “these stories provide a vital education on the complex and pervasive reality of rape culture.

“This movement was created in response to these stories that reveal the urgent need to tackle these deeply entrenched patterns of abuse that exist all around us.”

In a statement, Everyone’s Invited said that “moving forward, we know that our responsibility lies in improving and healing wounds we have uncovered.”

Many of the cases are linked to London’s top private schools, including St Pauls, Latymer and Westminster.

A former pupil of a school listed among the testimonies told The Student that “severe assault and coercive sex acts had a zero-tolerance policy amongst our friends and if anyone were accused or did anything along those lines, he would be humiliated.”

However, despite the aversion to these behaviours, the former pupil also stated that there was a concerning “normalisation of nude sharing and anti-feminism, mocking caricatures of what they viewed as feminists or any gender non-conformance.”

Moreover, they recalled an incident in which ‘a teacher got up-skirted [by a pupil] who sent the photo round the school.’

 “He was expelled but he wasn’t really condemned in absolute terms as much as incredulously ridiculed.”

Another pupil at one of the schools told The Student “The Everyone’s Invited page has been quite eye opening for many boys who hadn’t an inkling of what girls (and some boys) had been going through. 

“For others, it was a confrontation of their behaviour, however insignificant it might have seemed at the time.

“…It showed the lack of education regarding consent; in many of the testimonies the perpetrators seemed to have no idea that their behaviour was a complete violation of basic humanity.”

Yet while many cases are linked to secondary schools, a number have also been associated with Universities, including The University of Edinburgh. 

The Instagram account Overheard at Pollock addressed the emergence of testimonies related to the University with a series of polls regarding the presence of sexual assault and rape culture at Pollock Halls.

In response to the question ‘is there sexual harassment/assault in Pollock?’ 91 per cent of participants agreed, while 67 per cent of participants had ‘felt unsafe while alone with a guy in Pollock.’

However, they also found that 67 per cent of participants felt ‘a positive conversation’ had started in Pollock and ‘guys were talking about it too.’

69 per cent of men said that they had experienced ‘a friend being inappropriate to a girl’, but 48 per cent of these said they did not say anything about it.

A university spokesperson told The Student “We are committed to addressing the issue of sexual violence on campus and have invested significantly in awareness raising, delivering training for students and staff and ensuring there is effective professional support available for any student who needs it.

“We take all complaints about any students or staff members seriously, and deal with any incidents that are brought to our attention in a sensitive manner. 

“We encourage students to use our official reporting channels so that we are then able to fully investigate any incidents and provide those affected with the help and support they need.”

Image: Soma Sara