By Sophia Rossini – [email protected]
I wrote a letter to the editor for The Record a few weeks ago about CERTS signs and discussed the harms of rape culture and victim-blaming. One of the ways I described my experience as a survivor was being triggered by the CERTS posters I saw on campus. I sat on that Friday morning, watching my friend open the paper to read my piece, when she began to laugh.
“What? What’s funny?” I asked.
“‘Triggered,’” she replied, still laughing.
“What’s funny about that?” I pressed.
“You know, like, ha, triggered,” she said.
This is not the first time I have heard people make triggered jokes, but it was the first time I used the word in its proper context, with its original meaning in mind, just to have people assume I was joking and not take me seriously. As someone with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that struggles with triggers on a daily basis, I can assure you that being triggered is no laughing matter.
Being triggered is not just being angry, bothered, upset or excited. Being triggered is something in one’s surroundings that forces a person to be reminded of a traumatic event. This often leads to panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, being easily startled, avoiding places or people, becoming socially withdrawn and making it hard for the victim to eat, sleep and concentrate.
It is a setback to the recovery process. It can make the victim feel helpless, guilty, ashamed, angry, scared, sad and extremely distressed.
Would you joke about a diabetic needing insulin? Would you joke about someone on crutches not being able to walk up stairs? Mental health is no different. Just because a disorder is not visible does not mean it is not real and does not mean it can be trivialized to a punchline. This is ableist language. Making fun of those with mental disorders is blatant discrimination. It’s ignorant.
I’m hopeful that all of my friends, acquaintances and even the strangers that I’ve heard make these jokes do not do it to be deliberately hurtful. I hope that if I—and others—come forward with our stories, it will bring awareness to how damaging these jokes actually are.
Sexual assault victims already often struggle with getting others to believe them and being taken seriously, so hearing people joke about the instances where victims are forced to relive their trauma crushes the little trust I have left in other people.
It’s hard to comprehend how badly a trauma like sexual assault changes your life unless it happens to you. It’s hard to comprehend what living with PTSD is like unless you have it. If you’re having trouble picturing it, think of my name. Think of my story.
My struggle with PTSD has taken numerous medications, countless therapy appointments, cost me days of missed school and work, several friends and too many nights of sleep to count. Bursts of recovery are delicate; a trigger can set me back weeks. It’s a constant struggle. Most importantly however, my PTSD is not your punchline.
This is the opinion of Sophia Rossini, CSB first-year