Strong masculinity: founder of Everyone’s Invited sets out her vision to QE boys

Strong masculinity: founder of Everyone’s Invited sets out her vision to QE boys

With tens of thousands of young people anonymously sharing testimonies of sexual harassment and abuse on the reporting platform, Everyone’s Invited, its founder, Soma Sara, found herself at the centre of one of 2021’s biggest news stories.

And in an online lecture given to boys at QE, Soma explained what had inspired her to set it up, namely her shock at realising that almost every girl she knew had suffered from some form of sexual assault whilst growing up.

Assistant Head Crispin Bonham-Carter (Pupil Involvement) said: “Soma gave a fascinating talk to our senior pupils on the big screen in the Shearly Hall, and we were also pleased to welcome girls from The Henrietta Barnett School, who joined us online.

“She outlined her reasons for starting Everyone’s Invited, telling us that she chose the name advisedly because she wanted it to be open to all irrespective of race, religion or sexuality.”

After being founded in 2020, Everyone’s Invited shot to prominence in 2021 as more than 54,000 young people shared their accounts of sexual harassment and abuse in just nine months.

“Soma described her experience of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of testimonies that Everyone’s Invited received,” said Mr Bonham-Carter. “She did make the point that men and boys (or gender-neutral people) can be victims, too.”

“Her vision of strong masculinity, she said, was of young men with the confidence to talk openly about their feelings, to value empathy and kindness.”

These, he added, are values which chime with QE’s mission to create confident, able and responsible citizens, particularly as redefined in the 2021-2025 School plan, Building on Distinction.

Soma answered questions from pupils from both QE and Henrietta Barnett. “She talked passionately and powerfully about the importance of engaging with students early on regarding relationships and sexuality,” Mr Bonham-Carter said.

“These are complex times for young people to be growing up in – whether it’s pandemics, culture wars or the challenges of social media, they seem almost bombarded. Yet this lecture felt like a very good way to end the year, with a positive atmosphere in the Shearly Hall as focused, sensitive young people listened intently to someone only a few years older than them,” Mr Bonham-Carter added.

Soma Sara’s visit was the last in a series of events organised by the School during the Autumn Term to help both boys and staff navigate difficult social issues.

The activities included:

  • An Active Bystander Training Company workshop for all in Years 9–11 on racism, bullying and sexual harassment, with a focus on use of the four Ds – Direct action, Delay, Distraction or Delegation – to challenge inappropriate behaviour. Boys were told that any action is better than none (provided it does not put the individual at risk).
  • Staff training from specialist trainers Bold Voices on the December pastoral training day to support the Personal Development Time curriculum, which covers important issues that can be difficult to talk about. The training gave staff strategies for teaching related to gender inequality, sexual harassment and violence, and for developing positive attitudes in all pupils.
  • A series of virtual talks on the broad theme of respectful relationships offered to Years 7 & 8 and to Years 12 & 13, by the RAP Foundation educational charity. There was also a webinar for parents of Years 7 & 8 boys to help them understand the pressures facing boys as they go through adulthood. Specific topics covered included sexting, cyber-bullying, online grooming and early sexualisation.