The Importance of Trigger Warnings

Trigger Warning-- Sexual Assault

I woke up on the morning of the Ford and Kavanaugh hearings, and after just five minutes of scrolling through comments on Twitter, I threw up.

And when I went to lunch, where people were talking about it, I threw up.

And when I went to English class and my professor suggested that we watch Kavanaugh’s testimony in class, upon hearing his voice, I threw up.

And that night, at dinner, the names of the accuser and the accused were all over the news and the words “sexual assault” were flashing up on every inch of the television screens. Yep, you guessed it. I threw up.

This isn’t uncommon for me.

In fact, it happens often when I get triggered.

I was diagnosed this year with complex PTSD from rape and sexual abuse.

Sexual assault is a very touchy subject for me in this period of healing. The slightest mention, no matter the context or its difference from my own story, can send me into a downward spiral of memories, madness, maelstrom. I am constantly jumpy and on edge, my anxieties from the past holding me hostage and consistently seeming to threaten my imminent safety. I don’t get to choose when I have flashbacks, or how my body will respond to them. I don’t control my PTSD. My PTSD controls me.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news lately, you know that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a highly successful professor and professional psychologist, accused President Trump’s nomination for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assaulting her when the two were in high school. After Ford spoke her truth, two more women came forward with their own grievances against Kavanaugh. There was a hearing in which both sides shared testimonies and were cross-examined. An FBI investigation was even commissioned.

Every single second of this has been broadcasted on every single media platform available, and still, no one is thinking to place trigger warnings before these (sometimes, very graphic) portrayals and conversations.

And while I am truly so, so overjoyed that the media has taken such an interest in a case that is incredibly dear to my heart, I don’t feel as if it is fair to the victims to not censor these things or place consistent trigger warnings upon them.

I’m triggered by the smells of certain colognes, the way the sun sometimes comes through car windows, four different Halsey songs and a pair of shorts that I’m too scared to take out of the bottom drawer of my dresser, so you can imagine how triggered I am by hearing descriptions of sexual assault, dialogues about sexual assault, and very strong opinions (sometimes anti-victim) about sexual assault. And I know for I fact that I am not the only one. There are people all around you who fight the battle that you are watching come to you live through your screen. Every. Single. Day. And. We. Are. Hurting. So. Much. Right. Now.

Please, please be cognizant of the men and women around you who are extra fragile right now.

If you want to retweet something about the Kavanaugh case, add a trigger warning, and if you want to start a conversation about the Kavanaugh case, ask, “Is it okay if we talk about this?”

To the brave souls of survivors that are blossoming around me through this thunderstorm, I want you to know that it is okay to take a step away from the news, to close the blinds, and to distance yourself. This is not inconsiderate or politically irresponsible. You come first. Take care of you.

And to the wonderful humans reading this that I know mean no harm, we appreciate your attempts to raise awareness and your engagement so much. But please, please, consider adding trigger warnings to the content that you share and censoring the words that leave your mouth in public places. You never know which ears and eyes could respond painfully to this information.

Treat yourself gently in this time of nationwide chaos, and treat those around you gently, too.