Why Trigger Warnings are Necessary

Trigger warning: this article may be distressing to some readers.

 

In the midst of the #MeToo movement, our nation has seen a movement toward the more frequent use of trigger warnings. For those who are not 100% clear on the definition, a trigger warning is "a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)" (Google). Some internet trolls like to joke about the use of trigger warnings or about being triggered, but, for the most part, people understand the need.

During a class, a professor showed a movie that contained a graphic depiction of an individual self-harming and then of an individual being sexually assaulted. It goes without saying that the class was stunned and some students were visibly upset, opting to excuse themselves for a period of the movie. Some students thought that maybe the professor did not know that the scenes were in the movie, but she later disclosed that she had seen the movie a few times. She chose not to disclose what some of the scenes would show. This made me realize just how important trigger warnings truly are.

(Photo by Hanna Postova)

Survivors of any type of abuse or mental illness have endured hell, and a trigger warning gives them control to decide what they are exposed to. There is no guarantee of how a survivor will react and different factors of their environment can heighten their sensitivity to triggers. Trigger warnings let survivors know that even if they choose to not disclose what they have survived, people understand that overcoming trauma is a constant battle.

The absence of a trigger warning shows blatant ignorance to the suffering of other individuals. If you are ever dealing with subject matter that could be mentally distressing to someone, warn them. The pain of a trigger can cause survivors so much suffering and they could even lose their sense of security. Trigger warnings take seconds, but overcoming trauma can take a lifetime. Be considerate because you never know the demons people have faced.