Trigger Warnings Aren’t the Problem

Leaving aside the reality of ‘trigger warnings’–they serve as much to prevent class discussions from being derailed by personal stories of trauma as they do to protect students’ feelings (e.g., preventing a rape survivor from having a meltdown during class)–it would appear the greatest threat to campus liberty is not rich people essentially taking over a public university or the ongoing corporatization of higher education. Nope. The greatest threat would apparently be ‘trigger warnings.’

Well, there’s another ongoing little threat to campus liberty as well (pdf; boldface mine):

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to document the point and cumulative prevalence of incapacitated rape (IR) and forcible rape (FR) among first-year college women.

Methods: Female students (N ¼ 483) completed a health questionnaire (1) on arrival on campus; (2) at the end of the fall semester; (3) at the end of the spring semester; and (4) at the end of the summer following their first year of college.

Results: Before entering college, 18% reported IR (attempted and/or completed), and 15% reported FR (attempted and/or completed). During the first year of college, 15% reported IR (attempted or completed) and 9% reported FR (attempted or completed). By the start of the second year (lifetime prevalence), 26% and 22% had experienced IR and FR (attempted or completed), respectively.

Conclusions: Both incapacitated and forcible sexual assaults and rape have reached epidemic levels among college women. Interventions to address sexual violence on campus are urgently needed.

Forcible rape (FR) “was defined as vaginal, oral, or anal penetration achieved using threats of violence or use of physical force.” During the school year (the start of classes until April 30), 5.2% percent of freshman students were forcibly raped one or more times.

There are some caveats. This is one college, though its numbers appear to be in line with other estimates. It also relies on self-reporting (though I have no idea how else one would collect these data in any accurate way). On the other hand, I’ve focused here on forcible rape–rape apologists can’t claim these are cases of ‘remorse’ or some other twaddle.

I have no idea if the likelihood of forcible rape decreases after the freshman year (one hopes so), but even if the likelihood of being forcibly raped drops by half, we’re still somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve to fifteen percent of female students, while under the supposed aegis of the university, who have been forcibly raped. That is, traumatized.

But clearly the most important thing tenured faculty have to worry about are strident (and admittedly sometimes stupid) attempts to alter their course syllabi. Not a traumatized population that occurred on their watch.

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1 Response to Trigger Warnings Aren’t the Problem

  1. Dbp says:

    Well the obvious solution is to provide a trigger warning for the trigger warning. That way people traumatized by trigger warnings will know to gird their loins for something as ferociously terrible to experience as a notification that things are going to get really serious and dark in a moment.

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