On Sexual Assault, Awareness, and #TriggerWarnings

Talking about sexual assault was difficult. Listening to someone talk to us about sexual assault was probably even harder. Last year, sexual assault awareness week was about breaking silence. About giving people the opportunity to talk.

But then the talking stopped. We had our week, and when it ended, so did the conversation.

So this year, the week has evolved. It’s not just about breaking the silence. It’s about how we break the silence. It’s about how we do that during the week, but also how we do it through the other 51 weeks of the year too.

And yes, each of these events comes with a selection of trigger warnings. And I believe in giving them freely. Because I understand what a trigger warning really means.

There is nothing shameful in being triggered. I think everyone is triggered, to a certain extent. Some people are triggered by topics – food, abuse, rape – and others by words, or even the way words are said. Sometimes, like is the truth for me, an anxiety attack is triggered by something simple, like an older man yelling angrily nearby.

Not everyone who is triggered has an anxiety attack. Not everyone shows visible signs. Some people sit in insufferable silence. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous mental health position for our sake.

This is not to say that talking about sexual assault is not going to be difficult. Or uncomfortable. Or sometimes really damn hard. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to learn. It’s worth it to change. And it’s worth it to learn enough to teach others to change.

Because every person who attends this week, and every person who learns how to break the silence, is then equipped to teach others. And teaching others, in the other 51 weeks of the year, sounds like a great way to keep the silence broken.


– Tristen Watmough


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