Trigger Warnings: Hurtful or Helpful?

Trigger Warning Society

We recently ran a sexual assault article in my campus news paper, with big bold red letters at the top offering a trigger warning. We talked about it a lot in our meeting the following week, because there was information at the bottom of the article about events going on on campus for sexual assault survivors. Did we just turn away the people who could have benefited from the article?

When you go online you see a lot of trigger warnings on blog posts, all over tumblr, and on every other platform. Our society has gotten a lot more aware of the fact that people are sensitive to certain topics. The question isn’t whether or not things can be triggering, especially when it comes to topics like sexual assault, the question is more about how our society has come to handle trigger warnings.

When I first saw this topic approached it was online. Someone had told someone that they should put trigger warnings on their tumblr blog posts about weight, because the blogger talked about how unhappy she was with her body and what all she thought was wrong with it, and the person asking the “question” said that she was bigger then her and it triggered self hatred in herself. I thought that the anon was being a little intense, because after all, did this girl not have the right to talk about why she decided to change her diet and start running?

I thought, wow, we’ve become a culture that is over sensitive to everything, and in a lot of ways I still stand by that statement. But at the same time, it’s all over our TV shows and movies, we clearly are expected to deal with it in some areas. Why is it okay in some and wrong in another?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and have decided on this: We shouldn’t have to filter our statements and personal stories. Our experiences can help others, our articles might have important information at the bottom. Our world, our victims can really use others stories to relate to and help them grow. Does that mean that we don’t go through a period of time where we really don’t want to read those things? Of course not. Should we have to put a trigger warning on all of them?

I don’t think so. I think that instead of putting “Trigger Warning” in bold at the top of every real down to earth post we should maybe in the first few sentences of our article or post say up front: This is a story of sexual assault -or- when I was suicidal I felt -or- when I hated my body and weight I felt.

If we put red letters on top of everything we say that tell people to turn away, we won’t really be doing anyone any good by sharing. In the same way we won’t do anyone any good by posting too graphic scenes up without any opening statement. Our culture hasn’t yet figured out how to balance, and I think it’s about time we learned.

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