Trigger warning: mention of rape
Y’all may have noticed on my past few reviews that I’ve started including trigger warnings for specific content found within those books. Although I do realize that trigger warnings can be very polarizing among some people (for an example, see THE ENTIRETY OF REDDIT), I do recognize their merit within a lot of safe spaces, even on the Internet. Trigger warnings are meant to do exactly that: warn people that there are certain things within books, movies, TV shows, etc. that may cause panic attacks and other feelings of extreme distress and alarm within an individual affected by such things. As of late, though, they’ve gotten a bit of a bad reputation due to people taking trigger warnings and bastardizing them as a way to make fun of this simple tool to protect others.
Ultimately, I know that those making fun of trigger warnings don’t see their usage as being something constructive so that others can go about their daily lives without accidentally ingesting media that sets off a negative chain reaction in someone’s emotional state. They go around with their blinders on thinking that just because they aren’t particularly affected by casual mentions of rape or severe depictions of violence in a tv show, no one in their right mind is. However, I can, unfortunately, speak from experience that this is definitely not the case.
I bring this up because I was recently given a book to read and review as part of an upcoming blog tour. Things were all well and good with the story until I reached a certain point: the main character was kidnapped and eventually raped by her captor. (The rant about rape as a plot device will come later, mark my words.) Without hesitation, I immediately did whatever I needed to do to ward off the panic attacks I knew would be coming if I didn’t act quickly. It’s been almost four years since I was raped by someone I had considered to be a friend, but scenes like that can — and have — triggered me into panic attacks so severe that I end up going completely non-verbal and non-responsive for upwards of thirty minutes to an hour. Through years of therapy and medication, things have been getting easier to manage on a day-to-day basis, but I still take extreme caution when I’m encountering something new. Of course, I don’t blame the woman who ran the blog tour, because I don’t think she was even aware that the scene lurked within the book’s pages; she was absolutely lovely when I told her I had to regretfully pull out due to my feelings about that particular scene.
However, this little episode — my first like this in almost a year, actually — could have easily been avoided if the book were prefaced with some kind of content or trigger warning. What if others on the blog tour, unfortunately, had the same kind of experience I did? Or readers who purchased the book before the tour? All it takes is about fifteen seconds to type the words “Trigger warning: *insert triggering content here*” so that people who are affected by these types of scenarios can make the decision on whether or not they want to consume that particular piece of media. There’s no censorship involved, because they’re still free to write or show whatever it is they want, but it easier allows people to make informed decisions about things that could potentially negatively affect them. I know I would feel personally responsible for someone reading something I’ve given a glowing review only for them to be completely scarred by what they’ve come across; for example, I’m not particularly bothered by the depictions of war and gun violence within Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but there are bound to be people — veterans, victims of domestic violence, etc. — who could find themselves sent back to a darker place in their lives if not for the content warning.
Little by little, these types of short warnings are being incorporated into our society. I see them all the time on news articles in which the story might contain graphic pictures or coverage, or through movie and television ratings. While some may write them off, these small reminders are oh so important for making sure that those that are averse to specific content get to keep their sanity for even just a few more moments.