The attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that constitute rape culture—a normalization and trivializing of sexual violence—negatively affect the everyday lives of millions of people, especially women and girls.
During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation is honoring Soma Sara, founder of Everyone’s Invited, with the Dignity Defense Alert for shedding light on the scope and impact of rape culture, with the ultimate goal of eradicating it. The Dignity Defense Alert is a monthly campaign recognizing the people, companies, nonprofits, etc. who are taking action to defend human dignity from any form of sexual abuse or exploitation.
Soma Sara was inspired to create Everyone’s Invited after she posted on Instagram about her own experience with rape culture—a post that resonated with hundreds of people who responded by sharing their own stories: many about sexual abuse and harassment from peers at their public and private schools. Sara felt compelled to create a space where people could anonymously give their testimony, thereby elevating the personal impact to the public sphere and providing a sense of the magnitude of the issue. More than 15,000 (to date) people from around the world have submitted testimonies and it has brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront in the UK where Soma Sara is based. The significant number of testimonies from young students prompted schools named in the testimonies to conduct internal reviews, the National Police Chiefs’ to set up a police helpline, and the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee to launch a national inquiry into the extent of rape and violence against women.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Sara shared that Everyone’s Invited has received testimonies from women of all ages, with women in their 80s sharing experiences from throughout their lives or from the lives of their daughters and granddaughters. She points out that rape culture has always existed but that it has “. . . been exacerbated in my generation and taken to new extremes through things like social media, and technology, and the accessibility of pornography. So, these. . .age old behaviors like. . .bullying and sexualized sort of lad chat that goes on traditionally in the pub or in the classroom is going on there now as well as permeating group chats on Facebook and Snapchat and just throughout social media, so I think it adds another kind of more permanent, terrifying element to the problem.” She also stated that peer to peer normalization is the most influential aspect of rape culture for children and that we need to empower children to stand up to one another, even friends, in calling out behavior that normalizes sexual violence.
As rape culture is a problem permeating every aspect of society, and therefore every institution, every person needs to be part of the solution. Soma stresses the critical importance of education both at home and at school, with a priority placed on “consent education.” Sara believes many schools – at least in the UK where she is based—seem to be reacting positively to Everyone’s Invited, actively engaging in discussions about rape culture with students. She notes that “parents just need to accept that we live in a social media, technology, fast-paced world, and that’s the reality of our time. Your children will be exposed to pornography, and it’s an inevitability of life. And they’re often exposed to it before they have any kind of sex education, so it’s about having these conversations earlier on.” She calls out the “damaging impact of pornography on young minds” and encourages parents to let children know pornography isn’t realistic.
Everyone’s Invited places a large emphasis on understanding rape culture as just that—a culture: one that allows other harmful behaviors to thrive. “When behaviours like upskirting, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, sexist or derogatory comments, or the non-consensual sharing of intimate photos are normalised, it acts as a gateway to criminal acts like assault and rape,” explains Sara. The site explains that everything is anonymized to avoid the cancel culture that seeks to uproot one bad actor, when in fact everyone is somewhat complicit in the perpetuation of rape culture, and we must all push back against it. Everyone’s Invited also calls for the community to practice empathy as a way to “forgive and go forward”. . .“working towards reconciliation and creating a new future.”
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation commends Soma Sara and the team at Everyone’s Invited for giving survivors a platform and for courageously confronting rape culture.Thank you @ei_culture for giving survivors a platform and confronting #rapeculture. #DignityDefenseAlert Click To Tweet
As Soma Sara, NCOSE, and countless child safety experts have stated, pornography use is a major contributor to rape culture, and children are being exposed to this harmful content at very young ages. Want to talk to your children about pornography, but not sure where to start? Visit our Safeguard Alliance page for talking points and resources like this one-pager: Talk Today, Safer Tomorrow: 10 Easy Conversation Starters.