This has been a bit of a hot topic this week after Stephen Fry made a comment that child victims of sexual abuse should “grow up” and go easy on the self-pity. He also said he believed that people are becoming too sensitive, highlighted by the trend of “trigger warnings.”
I’d like to start by saying that I am NOT a victim of child abuse in any form and I cannot even begin to comprehend what that must be like to go through. Every individual deals with these traumas differently, some have better support than others which is evident in how they recover. Don’t get me wrong, I like Stephen Fry. He is often blunt and says relevant things, such as his statement on being offended, but I cannot condone what he has said on this occasion.
Trigger warnings are small disclaimers at the start of an article or text, like the warnings before a movie or TV show, letting people know that there is violence etc. They are designed to give people advanced warning that the article might upset them or be a setback in recovery. I’ve used them before in some of my more serious blog posts where I’ve described a panic attack in detail.
As someone who has dealt with mental health issues for a while now, I know how easy it is to be caught off guard by an image or an article and be transported back to a bad patch of life unexpectedly, something that can often be difficult to deal with. Trigger warnings give me the choice of whether or not to read these articles. If I’m not in a good head space at the time, you can be sure I’ll be avoiding them.
Of course there is the argument that we need to face our demons to overcome them and I absolutely agree with that, but there is a time and a place. That’s what therapy, counselling and group sessions are for. You go into these knowing full well that old wounds are going to be opened, and you have time to mentally prepare for it beforehand. I’m not saying that makes it easier, but no one ever went to therapy because they thought it would be easy. At least they shouldn’t anyway.
It’s probably difficult for people who haven’t been through these traumas to understand just how affective an article or image can be. There is still a strong “get over it” vibe amongst many people who have no experiences of their own. Just Google the term trigger warnings and you will come up with lots of opinion articles about how trigger warnings are stupid and people just need to get over it. Unfortunately it’s just one of those things and some of these people will never understand.
Are we using too many trigger warnings? Possibly. They do seem to be popping up more and more, I’ve often read articles with a trigger warning where I’ve wondered what the point was by the time I got through, but then again, what I might find to be a low trigger risk might send another person over the edge so who’s to say.
There does also seem to be a growing trend of banning words such as “violate” in college campuses in America and I wonder if this is taking it too far, doing more harm than good. There are famous comedians who have begun refusing to perform at colleges due to some students inability to take a joke. Comedians tend to make light of a lot controversial topics, such as racism and homophobia, but it is generally done in an attempt to open our eyes to the ridiculousness of issues like these.
Are we becoming too sensitive towards these issues? Yes and no. With the above paragraph, I feel that over time the negative effects of taking it too far will show and some of these over the top protective trends will relax. As with everything, there is a line, but it’s a matter of opinion as to how blurry it should be. I do think that as a society we are slowly becoming more aware of the effects abuse and mental illness has on people. The more information and shared experiences out there, trigger warnings and all, the better as far as I’m concerned.
Smiles and Sunshine