By Sasha Mills
oma Sara is the founder of Everyone’s Invited, a platform creating space for the testimonies of survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Starting with her own testimonies, Soma soon built out a platform with over 16,000 accounts of abuse.
With a focus on schools and universities, the campaign recently released a report revealing all of the schools and colleges that testimonies had been written about.
We spoke to Soma Sara about her habits and routines for managing burnout, running Everyone’s Invited, and protecting the divide between her public and private lives.
“People feel that they can kind of trauma-dump, and that’s quite a lot if you’re dealing with this subject matter in your work everyday”
I avoid burnout by starting the day with rollerblading
I rollerblade every morning, around the park. It’s just a really important time for me because I get to enjoy nature, and then also listen to music or listen to a podcast, or just have a few moments at the start of the day to think things over.
I stop at the bench, sit down and kind of just do nothing – sit with myself, my thoughts, and look around and people watch … I think it’s really important to get your body moving, it’s more for my mental health.
It’s just small things – I have this book about rituals, and it’s the idea of doing small things with intention – things like making a cup of tea, and just sitting down and enjoying it. I live in an apartment block, [and] I’m quite high up so I can sit on the balcony and just kind of have a moment to myself.
My working environment is always changing
I definitely mix it up. Sometimes I’ll work from home, where it’s quiet, or I’ll go to a cafe around the corner from me. I love changing my environment, never being in the same place. I’m really, really privileged and lucky to have the freedom to choose where I want to be, and how much work I’m putting into whatever project I’m doing.
“It’s really important that everyone takes the time to reflect and look back at their own behaviour and their own experiences and think about how they may have been complicit in allowing this culture to prevail”
I’m thinking about a lot of different projects at any one time
Everyone’s Invited takes up most of my time. However, things have calmed down a little bit, so I've been able to focus on other things. I’m working on a big project at the moment, and also projects with other friends.
I love keeping myself busy. I think I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to be busy and motivated and doing things all the time. Otherwise I just get really sad and unhappy if I’m just doing nothing, I’m always occupied. I’m a huge multitasker, and doing 10 things at once, and I have a really short attention span!
I do a bit of this, and then of that – I move around, I’m all over the place – but that’s just the way that I work.
Remote work is at the heart of how I’ve built my organisation
Everyone’s Invited started in the pandemic. So it really started off just as we were going into the first lockdown. This whole time it’s all been remote, which has actually worked really well for us. It’s been amazingly efficient. Everyone is so amazing, and hardworking, and passionate, and really commits the time to the project.
I find support in my team
I’m really well supported by the whole team- it’s now around 20 people. One of the senior people in my team checks in with me everyday (Wendy). It’s nice to have someone that you can work with and check in with. It means I don’t have all of the responsibility - although I still kind of take it on - but I know the rest of the team is there and I can rely on them to be both helpful and supportive. I am very lucky to have them.
The whole team has their own ideas and initiatives as well, so it’s not really like I’m having to micromanage everyone all the time.
I'm more comfortable with managing my own time after experiencing university
It’s definitely been a massive learning curve for me – but that’s something that I was introduced to at university, managing your own time. It wasn’t completely new because I kind of had that shock at university in first year. I’m a very hard-working person, so I don’t struggle to motivate myself. But of course, things get overwhelming, I get tired, burnout happens.
When it comes to staying-in vs going-out
I can do both. Sometimes, like this week, I’ve been such a homebody, and I have not been out at all! It’s been a bit of a self care week of recuperating, and just spending time alone, and thinking about things in therapy, meditating and cooking – I really enjoy cooking, it’s another mental health thing, just going to the shops, choosing your ingredients, going home, and making something for yourself.
I also really enjoy socialising and going out with my friends, and I will do that as well. Whether it’s going for a drink, going to a pub, going to an event, or just having dinner with my friends.
Sometimes I feel under pressure to project a specific image
I think it is important to try and separate that public-facing self from your private self, like the person you are with your friends and family should remain separate. It is so important to safeguard your mental health, protecting who you are and your sense of self because it can become quite overwhelming being the face of something so hard hitting. I am also a survivor, so it is all quite a lot.
I’m very lucky, but there are also difficult sides to what I do
I’m so privileged to be in a position where I’m having such amazing interviews, meeting incredible people, and being in such exciting rooms with people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet and work with.
But there are more difficult sides, people dehumanising you a bit, and being political and experiencing backlash. People feel that they can kind of trauma-dump, and that’s quite a lot if you’re dealing with this subject matter in your work everyday – especially when you just want to relax, and have fun with your friends, and go out. I’ve spoken to a lot of activists, and apparently this is very common for people to come up to you and just tell you the most extreme trauma. That’s difficult. You’re already carrying so much.
In my work, changing the culture is my priority
I’ve said this from the beginning, it’s about a cultural shift and a cultural change. And in order to do that everyone needs to be involved, and everyone needs to be a part of it. I genuinely feel that it comes down to the individual, and everyone acknowledging that they play a part in rape culture, and they too are complicit because they’ve been socialised to be this way.
It’s really important that everyone takes the time to reflect and look back at their own behaviour and their own experiences and think about how they may have been complicit in allowing this culture to prevail – and actually take it a step further. If you see someone being mistreated, if you see someone being misogynistic, or harassing someone, being an active bystander, calling it out, doing it with empathy and understanding, and actually saying something instead of just shrugging it off. Otherwise the cycle just continues.
I think a huge part of changing the culture is working against the stigma and the shame that surrounds these issues. If they’re not stigmatised, people can actually come forward, and victims can report, and people can actually achieve some form of justice and catharsis and maybe even get a chance to heal.
I didn’t expect to be doing this
I had no idea what I was doing at university. I was completely lost. I was just kind of trying to get through it and just not really thinking ahead.
Everyone’s Invited happened by chance. It began as a moment for myself, and then it spiralled into this huge chorus of voices, and people sending me their stories, but it really did just begin with me sharing my experiences on Instagram. I didn’t do that with the intention of starting something, or a platform, it was more just a release for myself.
But I’ve always been quite a vocal person, since I was a teenager, with my beliefs and what I stand for, it makes sense that I’m doing what I’m doing now, even though it wasn’t planned.
SOMA’S CULTURE ROUND-UP
I just listened to Billie Eilish’s new album, Happier than Ever (it came out about an hour before this interview!). The song Happier than Ever – is so good. And I also like Clairo, it’s just sad girl summer vibes, and I loved her new album Sling as well.
I really like podcasts – I think it’s comforting, hearing a conversation, it really calms me down. Elizabeth Day did a How to Fail with Graham Norton, and I listened to that a few days ago.
I’m always reading the news. I’m getting it everywhere, because of Everyone’s Invited, you have to read everything to be able to do press interviews, so I read every paper and the articles on the subject matter.
How an activist activates her morning. The 22-year-old founder of online platform Everyone’s Invited is creating spaces for survivors of abuse - learn how she gets it done.
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