Editor’s note: This letter is a response to Amelia Erikson’s column published Dec. 2, 2015, called “Trigger warnings should not be used as they prevent growth.”
Would you pop a balloon in an unsuspecting war veteran’s ear?
Let’s talk about why we have trigger warnings. Trigger warnings don’t prevent people from engaging. They are because people in our community want the ability to prepare themselves before having a discussion about these topics. In fact, most of the time when people see a trigger warning, they use it to better prepare themselves for the discussion. It’s not fair to spring a discussion of child abuse or sexual violence without giving victims a chance to decide whether they can participate in that discussion.
If triggers were just “oh, I‘m uncomfortable,” it wouldn’t be a big deal. But they don’t work like that. Some people have flashbacks, a panic attack, or thoughts of suicide. These people may have been diagnosed with PTSD. They are people who have been afflicted by trauma.
“If something is triggering you, stop and close the tab” is another big misunderstanding. “Closing the tab” does not stop a panic attack. Once a panic attack gets rolling, there’s very little someone can do to stop it. And if someone were having one in the classroom, they can’t participate in the discussion. They are focusing everything on calming down. Is this “completely necessary”?
You have “a background of experiences that could potentially be triggered. […] I think most people do in one way or another.” This is the fundamental error people commit when they say “everyone gets depressed/nervous” about depression or anxiety. Yeah, everyone gets sad or nervous, but not everybody has clinical depression.
You didn’t talk to a single person about this issue. You just said “yeah, this is probably how this works” and made up a hurtful lie. How dare you? You don’t know what it’s like, and the presumption that you do is insulting.
Senior mathematics major