Writing materials

How Writing Helped Me Make Sense of My Trauma

I was intimidated by the idea of ​​writing this book. Writing, as a first-time author, seemed like an impossible feat. There was no real recipe, routine or structure to my own writing process. Oddly enough, this lack of structure led me to some interesting places, as I found myself drawn to ideas and materials that broadened my perspective and challenged my worldview. I started to question everything and reconsidered my past experiences.

More and more, I found my own life, my choices, and my behavior conflicting with the values ​​I was striving to live. I struggled with this contradiction. It made me uncomfortable. Writing this book was uncomfortable. It pushed me into painful and triggering places as I found myself peering into my past. I obsessively analyzed and relived my memories, traumas, decisions and experiences. Brené Brown, the eminent American research professor known for her research on shame, vulnerability and empathy, wrote in her book atlas of the heart that “sometimes the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful”.

At the time of this writing, I was overwhelmed by the explosion of Everyone is invited, the anti-rape cultural platform that I founded; the exposure, the media attention, the scale of the testimonies and the outpouring of trauma, and the backlash. Only now, after a lot of therapy and time to move on, as I once again feel the calm of stability in my life, may I accept how emotionally and psychologically sick I was over the following months. Sometimes I was paralyzed with fear; I couldn’t move, talk or go out. I had regular panic attacks and suffered from debilitating bouts of paranoia that triggered obsessive and intrusive thoughts, keeping me awake at night.

For a while I couldn’t go to a pub, dinner, party or social gathering where I didn’t have at least one stranger coming up to me and sharing their most traumatic experience of sexual abuse. Of course, it’s moving and amazing that people have connected with the work of Everyone Is Invited as they feel empowered and safe to share their stories. However, at the time, I felt more and more objectified, like a symbol or a mascot in those moments, forced to play, to heal, to give as much of myself to strangers, to assume their trauma and their pain when I had barely processed and come to terms with mine. I first heard of the term vicarious trauma during my training with The Survivor’s Trust. Vicarious trauma refers to “secondary trauma caused by exposure to first-hand traumatic accounts, narratives and experiences”, which may “manifest as a state of tension, preoccupation and/or obsession for the traumatic stories and experiences that people have heard. “. Vicarious trauma “results from witnessing the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured.” Professionals such as therapists, front-line workers, social workers, journalists, those working with survivors, or researchers whose work centers on events/phenomena of a traumatic nature are susceptible to vicarious trauma, but significantly anyone close to a trauma survivor can The impact can vary; it can be emotional, behavioral, physiological and cognitive, with people experiencing grief, irritability, loss of hope, loss of trust in others, isolation, increased alcohol/substance abuse, trouble sleeping, skin rashes, headaches, ulcers, cynicism, negativity, intrusive thoughts and disturbed dreams giants.

Writing was like a kind of therapy – I made sense of my trauma

But writing was also like a kind of therapy – I made sense of my trauma; everything that happened to me, everything that happened to my peers, my friends. As the essays began to take shape, there were lucid moments of clarity and meaning. I felt affirmed in reading literature that matched my thinking, my own experiences – reinforcing the absolute power of knowing that I am not alone in this. I found a community in the brave survivors I spoke to, in the interviews I conducted, the conversations I had with journalists, experts, academics, police officers, support workers frontline workers, domestic violence specialists, writers, politicians, teachers, school leaders and young people as part of my organizing and research work for the book.

Throughout my writing process, the constant I clung to was the need to create something accessible, to bring thought-provoking ideas and solutions to a universal audience. And in doing so, bring about meaningful change by questioning how and why we exist and continue to nurture a culture of misogyny, dehumanization and violence.

soma sara
Soma Sara at the 2021 Harper’s Bazaar Woman of the Year Awards

Oliver Holms

Everyone is Invited began as a grassroots movement seeking to challenge this culture. We are now a registered charity, run by an amazing team of volunteers. Since our origin and until today, our mission and our intention have remained the same. We are an anonymous and safe online space for survivors to share their stories. Our mission is to expose and eradicate rape culture with empathy, compassion and understanding. We’ve sparked a national conversation about rape culture with millions, sparked a groundbreaking Ofsted review in schools and hosted thousands of survivor stories on our platform. However, in the process, a year later, I return to the question that I am now frequently asked. A question that ruminates, round and round, painting circles in my mind. Which Actually amended?

Writing this book, I think, was partly an attempt to answer that question. It was also my attempt to interrogate him. Is change even possible? How can we implement it in a meaningful way? What can we learn from the past and the present? What can we learn from the testimonies to ensure that we enact long-term, thoughtful and effective change? How is change measured? How and when does it become tangible? What does change look like?

Simone de Beauvoir The second sex wonders why the uprisings and revolutions of various oppressed groups like the “proletarians in Russia” succeeded in overcoming their subordinate conditions, but “woman’s effort”, she writes, “has never been anything more only a symbolic agitation” where “they only gained what the men wanted to give them; they took nothing, they only received”. For De Beauvoir, change for women is transient, fleeting; it is an illusion of patriarchal construction. When the overthrow of Roe V Wade was leaked, Margaret Atwood responded, saying it was “a payback for MeToo”. At a time when Roe V Wade n What’s more, De Beauvoir’s words are oddly appropriate because the male-built, defined, and controlled legal system has removed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion just as it granted it, some 50 years before. We must be continually vigilant in our activity. ism. When we let our guard down, patriarchy quickly sets in and dominates.

You must prioritize your own healing if you want to make a change.

A few months ago, I conducted an Instagram Live interview with American activist, speaker and writer Kamilah Wallingham, who rose to prominence in the United States in 2016 for her activism focused on sexual assault and rape culture on American college campuses. She warned me of the limits of starting a conversation and that that alone is not enough. The engagement of a dialogue becomes superfluous if it is not followed by concrete long-term actions.

Holistic change at all levels of society is needed; at government level, in policies, in the criminal justice system, police, schools, universities and the VFFF sector itself. There needs to be a widespread, long-term commitment to addressing this culture at individual and collective levels and in our daily lives. Because this kind of change takes so long, activism, to me, feels like a lifetime commitment. But activism, whether it’s campaigning, writing a book, protesting, signing a petition or speaking out on these issues, is exhausting, painful and draining. Ultimately, this is one of the most fundamental lessons I learned while writing this book. You must prioritize your own healing if you want to make a change.

Everyone is invited by Soma Sara is now available.