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.
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.