Trigger Warnings: An Editorial Board Member's Response to Responses

I suppose that it isn't entirely true that there are "no trigger warnings here". I'm offering one now for those who think that they need it. This article references various types of trauma. 


To this day, I can't eat raisins.

When I was a little kid, I asked my mom for a snack one afternoon, and she poured raisins straight from a freshly opened box and onto a plate for me. I popped one into my mouth and reached for another when one raisin began to crawl away from the others. Mom, I said, one is moving. She ignored me. Mom, I said, I don't know if this is a raisin. By then, it had inched off the plate. It looked exactly like everything else on the plate: blackish, small, wrinkled. Then it opened its wings and I screamed.

Like I said, I still can't eat raisins.

Sometimes, I don't understand how anyone can eat raisins, but then I remind myself that not everyone saw what I saw. I can't expect everyone to feel the way that I feel about raisins since they haven't had that same experience. Even when I tell people about why I hate them so much, they don't really get it. Just talking about it isn't the same as living it. I try and tell myself that even if a person had seen that same, shriveled horror show that I had, they might have just moved on.

We all respond to these things differently.

My sexual past is something that I'm still coming to terms with. Sometimes, I go for months without thinking about what happened. When I was much younger, there were probably whole years where I didn't think about it at all. I don't know. Maybe that's a lie I tell myself because it's comforting.

Using trigger warnings can help protect trauma victims from themselves and from their pasts. Maybe that's a lie that we tell ourselves because it's comforting.

I'm not saying that I think trigger warnings should be eliminated from college campuses. I'm not saying that I fully agree with the way we phrased last week's editorial. All I'm saying is that I am a member of the editorial board and also someone who has dealt with sexual trauma. Personally, I've never felt protected by trigger warnings. I understand that some people do.  

While, I do not mean to discount any of the other extremely articulate, well-argued responses to last week's editorial, I took issue with the fact that a commonality among several responses was an assumption that members of the editorial board do not understand or have firsthand experience with trauma. The author of one letter to the editor suggests that we should have interviewed people who'd been "abused, assaulted, or attacked to find out how triggering things [are] a part of their reality". Trust me when I tell you that they are a part of my reality and that I am very likely not the only one on the board that this is true for. Some of my peers on the board have also dealt with other equally powerful kinds of trauma: mental illness, eating disorders, suicide, etc.  I understand that my opinion is only one. I do not assume that it is yours. I simply think that to have read the editorial and assume that no one on the editorial board could possibly be among this group just because they feel differently than you do is a mistake. 

We're never all going to agree on how we feel about raisins. We shouldn't expect to.


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