Understanding things that may trigger trauma

What is a trigger?

When communicating with individuals who have experienced trauma associated with sexual offences, it is important to recognise what can ‘trigger’ their trauma.

The word ‘trigger’ has become well used in society and is sometimes misused which can minimise the reality for someone experiencing trauma.

A ‘trigger’ can be a sight, sound, smell, taste or touch; anything which can spark a memory which transports a person back to a traumatic event/their traumatic experiences.

When trauma is triggered, an individual may experience emotional and/or physical responses and these can be profoundly distressing and debilitating.

trigger trauma

examples of triggers

In our communications things that may trigger trauma may include:

  • Violent and/or negative imagery
  • Suspenseful or ‘dark’ music or sounds
  • Violent or salacious language
  • Descriptions of sexual harm

Please note that the following information contains detailed references and descriptions of sexual harm

What you can do to reduce the risk of triggering trauma in others

Just let them know:

Let your audience know that the content you are communicating contains references to sexual harm, particularly in content where intimate details may be provided.

This will give anyone who may be triggered by the content, the opportunity to make their own choice about if/how/when/where to access it. This does not mean that someone will choose not to access the content, but it might be that they want to do it when someone they care about is at home with them for example, or that they are not in public.

Provide details of how your readers can access support:

Highlight that a range of support is available for anyone who may have been affected by sexual crimes, and/or who may be experiencing trauma as a result. This can save lives.

Be mindful of the imagery you use:

Stock images of individuals in vulnerable states such as ‘head hugging’ or ‘about to be assaulted’ portray people at their most vulnerable.  Individuals who have experienced sexual offences are so much more than the harm they have endured, and other stock images can be used to communicate content that affords individuals respect and dignity.  

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