And while thoughts like “Why am I reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest scandal instead of the slave trade in Libya??” are perfectly fair questions to ask yourself and the media, I want to hone in on something more specific here: media coverage of the anti-sexual assault movement, and content warnings.
This movement, which has had its ups and downs (like most movements in history) is rumbling, and this time it’s bigger than ever. Survivors of sexual assault are choosing to share their stories, perpetrators are being held accountable (for the most part). The media is having a heyday in covering the topic that everyone’s buzzing about, and the conversation surrounding sexual assault is shedding a much-needed light on the rampant issue that it is.
Stigma breaks more and more by the day.
But, as a survivor myself, and also someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I know it can be really horrible to not be able to go on social media or news sites without seeing something about sexual assault—reminding me of my own, reminding me of the times I have or haven’t talked about it, or just reminding me in general how many people have had to go through the same thing (anxiety, flashbacks, sadness, and more). Not to mention the comments section, which is never a place that tends to restore faith in humanity.
Is a lot of the coverage great? Yes.
Do survivors’ and allies’ voices deserve to be heard, their cases and allegations put in the spotlight if they want to? Of course.
Is this conversation essential to spreading awareness and finding solutions to the issue at its societal core? Yes, yes, yes.
But for me, and for many survivors out there, all of that can be bad for your mental health and well-being.
So here are some tips for staying sane, healthy, calm, and relatively stress-free with all these sexual assault-related stories buzzing around.
1. Give some extra attention to warnings.
If a news outlet (or other outlets, like Ulzi) covering the topic is aware of the seriousness of the issue and care about the well-being of their readers, they will have a content warning of some kind before the whole of the content is visible.
If it’s not just an article or post, but something like a newsletter sign-up or blog category, check the main blog page or any parenthetical statements in those newsletter sign-up boxes. This means they are providing the content warning at the start (the sign-up), but not in subsequent communications (not in every newsletter or post).
There will also be warnings in TV shows and movies. Always easy to find? No. In fact, it may only be a “Some viewers may find the following material disturbing.” Or “Explicit content.” But they’re there (kind of the bare minimum, huh?). You may also even be able to find a review of the episode or film online that will warn more specifically about certain scenes without revealing spoilers.
If you are blindsided by triggering content, it is your right to get up and leave, turn the TV off, or whatever you need to do to get yourself out of a harmful situation.
I know it sucks to have to be on the lookout for content warnings, especially when they’re not easy to find. But this is a great way for you to know what kind of content you’re getting into.
2. You do not (I repeat: do NOT) owe anyone your story.
The #MeToo movement, and inspiring movements like it, are powerful. They spread awareness and start important conversations. But that DOES NOT mean you owe anyone your story.
You do not need to share your story to make your experience valid. And people who tell you otherwise don’t know what they’re talking about.
Your feelings are valid simply because you are feeling them. You matter. If you don’t want to say #MeToo, that doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the movement. It doesn’t mean you’re not important in this initiative to end sexual assault.
3. Remember that no two stories are alike.
If you watch or hear about things like:
that episode of 13 Reasons Why where Hannah is assaulted,
or that episode of Riverdale where Cheryl’s friends heroically stop her assault,
remember that no two stories are alike, and shows like this often don’t include the full story.
These types of storylines often skip over the healing process, which doesn’t mean that you should feel rushed or pressured with your own healing process.
These storylines also often show only stereotypical situations, which can actually increase stigma and victim blaming tendencies in society. Remind yourself that you know your own experience despite what people might say.
If you think people in your life might be undermining your experience, inhibiting your healing process, or making you feel confused or guilty about your experience, you may be dealing with gaslighting. You can learn more about that here, including ways to combat it, safely.
4. Restrict unnecessarily triggering sources.
When a news outlet or social media platform often glorifies or sensationalizes issues, they’re likely to do that with most of their content, if not all of it. That’s because clickbait is, well, exactly that, clickable. Those headlines with, “And you’ll never guess what happens next…” are not going to provide a fair and just representation of the story.
Clean up your feed, “unlike” some places that write in a sensationalized manner, and tell Facebook to “hide” those kinds of things if they still manage to pop up in your feed (when a friend shares it, for example).
There are plenty of news and lifestyle sources that put more care into what their readers are seeing.
So, yeah, news today can really suck.
Scrolling through Facebook can turn into a traumatic experience in itself with little to no warning. But there are ways to combat this, and these tips can help you practice mental well-being as the movement against sexual assault continues.
At Ulzi, we care about you, your stories, your support, your well-being, and your safety above all else. We can stand together not only against sexual assault, but in support of each other as an understanding and healing community.
Have you joined us yet?
If you haven’t, you can click here to change that.
If you enjoyed this article, here is an exclusive and inspiring story about several fraternities and sororities that have pledged to stand against sexual assault.