By Leila Issa and Charlie Kitchen, 6.1
The following extract contains sensitive information on sexual assault and rape.
Over the past week in the UK there has been widespread reaction throughout society following the murder of Sarah Everard. Sarah was a 33-year-old marketing executive, who was kidnapped whilst walking home from her friend’s house in Clapham, South London. She was last seen on CCTV footage on 3 March, calling her boyfriend. Her body was found a week later in Kent, 60 miles from where she was last seen. She was kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered.
Sarah’s tragic story has inspired many victims of sexual assault to come forward with their testimonies. One online platform, Everyone’s Invited, has allowed victims from schools across the country to come forward anonymously with their experiences of sexual assault, including one testimony from a former Bedales student.
Everyone’s Invited was founded in June 2020 by a former Wycombe Abbey student, Soma Sara, after sharing her personal experience of rape culture via Instagram. Within a week she received and shared over 300 anonymous responses, reaching over 10,000 people. The website now has more than 4,100 testimonies, including accounts from girls as young as nine. Her website continues to share anonymous testimonies as well as advice for victims, and calls for reform of the education system to include more detail on consent. All information can be found at https://everyonesinvited.uk.
On Monday Bedales students came together as a community to discuss how we can support victims of any sexual assault, and how we can revisit our curriculum to reflect more accurately contemporary issues of widespread sexual violence in society. It was incredible to see so many students turn up who were willing to have an open conversation on an extremely difficult and stigmatised topic. Given that Bedales is an independent school, we have the ability to influence the way our wellbeing lessons and school curriculum work. We can give much more prominence to education about sexual misconduct and the complex issue of consent.
We want to work with Magnus and the staff to help develop the opportunities there are for education around consent and the varying laws on confidentiality followed by the staff who work at the school supporting students (house parents, counsellors, doctors, and teachers).
On Tuesday many students and staff wore red clothing to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault, an initiative taken up by other schools, and Art students are planning a mixed media exhibition to go in the Quad centred on the theme of sexual assault, which will merge written testimony with representation.
To all survivors of sexual assault: we see you, we hear you, we believe you, and we support you.