Why the Conversations About the Stanford Rape Case are a Gift and a Curse

In which I discuss the importance of trigger warnings

I am so touched to see so many of my friends and loved ones sharing stories about the Stanford rape case. It has opened the door for tough conversations about how we treat victims, perpetrators, and others as a society.

The other thing it’s done, though, is make it rough to be a survivor of sexual violence.

Don’t get me wrong — I am beyond proud that these conversations are happening in public forums such as social media. It’s about time that we all become outraged at the entitlement of groups of people to attack and harm others — and to discuss how our criminal justice system allows this to continue.

The social justice and sexual health warrior in me is ecstatic.

The sexual violence survivor in me is scared.

Every time I log onto social media lately, the bulk of what I see are stories, pictures, etc, about this case. Again, I do think it’s about time, but my Post-Traumatic Stress doesn’t necessarily agree.

This case has the ability to change so much — including how we as a society address and view trigger warnings. These warnings have come under attack because of certain generations (it seems, at least) thinking millennials are too soft and need to toughen up.

This is not the case.

If a war hero with PTSD asked for trigger warnings on bombings, for example, I wonder how opposed to trigger warnings people would be.

A while ago, I wrote a live piece while triggered about how difficult it is and the physiological reactions that PTSD entails. There are ways to cope — focusing on something else, trying grounding techniques, working out. These activities don’t erase the damage that being triggered does, though.

It can take a week to really recover from being triggered. I become very withdrawn or into hiding or very angry, a mirror of the ‘Fight, Flight, Freeze Response.’

So, what do we do?

Add trigger warnings. It’s really easy and simple to add trigger warnings to any of your posts.

The simplest way to do so for Facebook is:
TW Rape/Sexual Assault
*
*
*
*
*
Add your text

This method allows for people like myself who may need to not see this issues right now to skip over them as it hides the ‘add your text’ section. ’It gives us the power to decide if we want to view the content.

On Twitter, adding TW Rape/Sexual Assault is great as well — especially if you’re retweeting something. Do a quote tweet instead so you can add the TW if needed.

On Tumblr, using “Rape” and “Sexual Assault” in the tags is best. This allows for people like myself who utilize add-ons like Tumblr Savior to not see these items. We see that so and so posted something involving ‘rape’ but not the content. Again, it puts the power in our hands.

This is a delicate balance. We want to expose people to the Brock Turners and Aaron Perskys of the world who perpetrate crimes and perpetuate injustice towards victims, but we have to be mindful of how victims can be harmed by exposure to these issues as well.

I want to be more mindful and compassionate towards others. What are some other important things we can tag as triggers?

  • Gifs — people with epilepsy and sensory disorder will really appreciate this on Tumblr. Twitter and Facebook generally require a click, so this is not as important there.
  • Suicide and Death — some people are going through grieving a lost loved one or may be dealing with emotional and mental health issues. Tagging these on every social media platform is important.
  • Abuse and Child Abuse — I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a story on these issues and immediately gone into PTSD-mode. Important to tag on all social media, even if you think you don’t have friends who have experienced this because everyone actually does.

If you’re looking for other thoughts, you can find some here. The important thing to do is to check in with people who may have a trigger about this.

Do you know someone who was attacked by a dog as a child? They might want things with dogs triggered.

I know many in the chronic illness community who struggle with infertility and ask for things with kids to be tagged.

The beauty of Facebook is that, if you don’t want to do trigger warnings, you can exclude certain people from even seeing certain posts. This can be a valuable tool in caring for our friends and loved ones. Other sites generally don’t have this same structure, making trigger warnings there all the more important.

I’m a survivor and I don’t know how to handle this situation.

The best thing you can do is take care of yourself.

It’s okay to unfollow or unfriend or mute people who constantly post triggering items.

It’s okay to step away from social media for a while.

Have an emergency self-care plan if you are in a situation where you get triggered often and can’t get out of it.

Above all, take care of you. Take more naps. Snuggle a guinea pig or other adorable pet. Watch something funny. Go for a run or to the gym.

More people have been through icky things than will admit it, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.

You are not alone.
I am here for you if you ever need to talk about these issues or find new ways to practice self-care and self-love. I’m just a message away.
I love you.

Kirsten is a writer and chronic illness activist living in Madison, Wisconsin. She is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Health Care Administration and Patient Advocacy.

This year, her big project is launching an organization called Chronic Sex, highlighting how chronic illnesses and disabilities affect Quality of Life issues such as self-love, relationships, and sex. If you’re interested in helping with this project, please reach out or find the project on Patreon.