Trigger Warning: What’s a Trigger, and How Do I Cope?

While Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) can bring feelings of gratitude for survivors and advocates, the sudden influx of information related to sexual violence awareness may be difficult. For survivors, mentions of sexual violence can act as a reminder of their own assault. Sexual assault advocates work closely with survivors, and seeing articles or posts on social media about sexual violence can be disruptive to their emotional state when they’re off the clock. Both survivors and advocates are vulnerable to post-traumatic symptoms from either experiencing a trauma themselves or through vicarious trauma.

So, what’s a trigger?

A trigger is something that acts as a reminder of trauma. It’s not always something very obvious. Returning to the place where one’s trauma occurred or seeing one’s perpetrator can absolutely be a trigger, but it’s often smaller reminders that catch trauma survivors off guard. Maybe it was raining that night and the feeling of rain falling on you makes your skin crawl, or maybe the detective who interviewed you wore a certain perfume and you smell it months later while walking in a department store.

After a trauma, it is normal for survivors to avoid reminders of what happened. Being triggered can make it harder to heal. However, learning to cope with triggers is also an important part of the healing process.

Identifying triggers and coping 

During SAAM, social media, television, and even print media often contain even more content about sexual violence than other months. It may even come up more in conversations with friends and family members than usual. Noticing when you are feeling overwhelmed is the first step in taking care of yourself. Being triggered or otherwise affected by this flood of sexual violence-related content can feel different to everyone. It may cause increased feelings of anxiety, anger, or sadness.

Just as everyone’s reaction to a trigger can be different, everyone will have a different way of coping with it. Remembering to do things you enjoy or having coffee with someone close to you may be helpful. Some prefer journaling or speaking to a therapist. If you notice that the change in your mood may be stemming from SAAM updates on your social media, taking a break from certain apps may be helpful. Finally, if you are in crisis or need emotional support, LaFASA is always available to help through our hotline, 888-995-7273.

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