The idea of the trigger warning is a polite habit new to the Internet.  It is a way to warn people who may visit your page that you might be touching on some shit that might make you feel some kind of way so proceed with caution.

In real life there are no trigger warnings.  You have to learn to navigate and maneuver past the land mines that are all around you.  Sometimes you are successful and sometimes you aren’t so you then have to figure out how to manage the shit storm you just stepped into without cracking.

Television and the Internet though at times warn you that its coming. Sometimes they just slap a TV-MA on the front of the show and keep it moving.

On last night’s Scandal, my guilty pleasure, there was no trigger warning that said Daddy Fitz (Jerry Grant) was a drunken asshole who would rape his daughter-in-law while his son slept upstairs.  I watched with my mouth open in shock.

I wasn’t shocked that I was witnessing disgusting behavior, I was shocked that Shonda Rhimes went there.

I wasn’t shocked that the rape of the eventual First Lady was on television, I was shocked that first Shonda tossed that in there when it really and truly was not necessary to further the story and second that she showed a scenario that is all too common.  Women are often forced to accept abuse and assault without the ability to report it and move through it in a healthy fashion.

With Thanksgiving days away, there are going to be many women who are going to be carving turkeys inches away from the men who have raped or molested them or used them as a speed bag the day before.

Last night we watched Mellie Grant say no – fight back – become over powered – and eventually withdraw into herself and pray that it would be over quickly.  That behavior is foreign to some women, but it is old habit to others. We watched Mellie have to suck it up and smile for her husband, knowing that to explain what just happened to her would rip her family apart, and send a ripple effect through her life that she might never be able to repair.

How could her brand new loving husband ever desire her again knowing that his own father – who he hated was inside of her.  Even though it was not consensual these are some of the thoughts that run through a woman’s head.

How would her husband react?  Would he stand up and defend her – fight for her honor – or would he cave to the bigger stronger Jerry?

How would telling affect their future?  Their plans?  His political future could never survive the scandal of a father in law on trial for the rape of his son’s wife.

Seem shallow?

It should not.

Women who are assaulted often have to think of everything that comes with telling that story instead of what not telling will do to them.  You need not be the wife of a man who could be Governor you can simply be a woman.

At the end of the episode, we learn that Mellie is pregnant.  That pregnancy could be the result of her rape.  Don’t try to explain that to Todd Akin, but yes women who are raped do get pregnant sometimes.

Mellie had to carry that knowledge, swallow it, smile and pretend like it was all okay.

She had to make sacrifices to keep the peace.  She had to put the better good over her own pain.

Women all over the world do it every day.

Hell I’ve had my own father and mother tell me to get over what was done to me by my own brother.

It took almost 20 years for me to work up the courage to recount to my parents the incident that happened one rainy spring day.  That day still haunts my dreams at times and has in part affected my adult interactions with other men.  At 41 I still feel the guilt and shame.  At 41 I still feel the anger and frustration.  I still hold blame to myself, for the actions of another.  And well….I am never going to be the Governor of California let alone President of the United States.

When I was told to get over it though, I had to suck it up.  There was no other option.  The energy it would take to fight that fight would harm me even more than my actual violation.  Women shouldn’t have to make that decision. I should not have had to make that decision neither should Mellie that fictional First Lady we all love to hate.

We are not the only ones who have though, past – present and future.

Life doesn’t give us trigger warnings, or the protection from those who cause those triggers in the first place.



Aphrodite Brown

About Aphrodite Brown

Aphrodite Brown is the owner and creator of Vizionz from the Bottom. Vizionz is a life and culture blog covering all aspects of life from pop culture, to politics, to parenting, with an extra heavy dose of alternative lifestyle & sex positive living.

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4 Responses to Triggers

  1. Saki says:

    With regard to including the rape in the show: I believe it was an integral piece of the puzzle, and helped me to understand why Mellie sometimes behaves in the manner in which she does towards Fitz. It’s not easy to have to endure such an attack…but it’s twice as hard when you endure it at the hands of a man that is the father of the man that you’ve married…who consequently goes on to cheat on you in later years. I can’t imagine what it must be like to feel that kind of hurt…anger…hatred even…for someone that you love so much…because of something that their father did to you…which his own behavior unknowingly exacerbates.

    Should the show have come with a warning…I can’t say…but if the TV-MA is not enough to let you know that there will be something for mature audiences only…then I don’t know what else can be done…short of having a brief statement at the beginning like they do on some episodes of shows…or…to have the characters actually talk about the fact that something ugly is going to be presented like they used to at the beginning of shows in the late 80’s….the show Moonlighting comes to mind…where David and Maddie would sit on a desk before the show…and talk to the audience before the show began.

    I absolutely hope that people start talking more about rape and rape culture…because it is definitely something that negatively impacts our society…and will continue to do so…until something is done about it…and those that perpetrate it are punished!

    • Aphrodite Brown says:

      Mellie sacrificed a lot to support Fitz in his political career. I’m not convinced that a rape was necessary for us to understand that. Then to further the ambiguity of things and leave open the possibility that her first born might be her husband’s sibling, it seems like over kill and heavy handed and beyond what is necessary to further the story.

      I didn’t see a warning while watching the show, and I don’t personally think one was needed. TV-MA means TV-MA and I am okay with not overdoing it to coddle the viewer. That was part of the point of this entry – there are no trigger warnings in life for women who this has happened to and they have to find a way to deal with it.

      We absolutely need to open a dialogue about rape culture, and how we – men & women – are unwittingly furthering it and teaching it to our children. This show does that, kind of, I simply wish there were other ways to make it happen.

      Thank you for reading and commenting Saki, your support is appreciated.


  2. I’m conflicted about the show. I think using rape as a plot device left me feeling manipulated as a viewer in a way that was heavy handed. That being said it seems to have been an excellent launching point for people to chime in on rape culture, actual rape and the pain it has caused. I’d just hope that it’s not something that was considered callously without much forethought. It’s a bold creative choice.

    The more I think about it I do believe they need to have a warning before the show. At first I was like, “Well it’s kind of a spoiler isn’t it?” But when I think back even if I had known it was coming I’d have still be shocked because it was executed very unflinchingly. Thanks for writing about this topic. Maybe more good blogs and opinion will come from this episode and ultimately I think that will be a good thing.

    • Aphrodite Brown says:

      It’s absolutely generated a conversation and I am of the mind that talking about it is the first step to dealing with it. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope others further the conversation.


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