Hey U of Chicago: I’m an academic & survivor. I use trigger warnings in my classes. Here’s why.
E Price

Whenever I see people wailing about trigger warnings being this “trending” thing that Millennials have tried to implement, I always have to chuckle a bit. Trigger warnings or similar concepts have existed for decades, you just probably haven’t noticed them. You know that big green screen that pops up before a film that says PG or R or whatever for “graphic violence” or “adult language” or “some sexual content?” Yeah, those have been around forever, and were put in place, like trigger warnings, to tell audiences beforehand to expect what the film is going to depict. Ratings and warnings before films were implemented mainly as a way for the studio to not be held liable if people were offended by the content, and most people these days respond to upset viewers with “well if you don’t like (content element) then why did you go see the film?” or “it’s a (so-and-so) film, what did you expect?”

Trigger warnings have always existed, it is only now that we seem to be getting our panties in a wad, perhaps over the verbiage, over an element that doesn’t affect most individuals outside of academia. I challenge you, people who argue that “trigger warnings don’t exist in real life” to explore your everyday media a little more closely, because you might find that those same things exist for very good reasons (there was a time where some of your favorite films or TV shows were not allowed to exist because their content was “menacing to the public,” as in early films could not include sex, violence, swearing, drug and alcohol use, etc. because it was too “shocking” and “offensive.” And they say people today are fragile.)

I used to be on the fence about trigger warnings until I met a young veteran in one of my classes who had a therapy dog. This gentleman brought his therapy dog with him to his classes, and the dog sat quietly beneath his desk, just in case he was needed. Would you deny that young man who has served our country a small courtesy like a trigger warning if you knew it could save him from having a panic attack or something similar in the middle of class? I certainly would hope not.

Do trigger warnings get abused by individuals who don’t actually experience real traumas? Yes, yes they do. People will *always* abuse courtesies or services that someone will try to put in place, that’s what human beings do.

But I do think that some people truly benefit from TWs, and this piece was another real eye-opening example of why. Who are we to make decisions for other people whom we know nothing about?

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