Sharing with compassion
author: marty grande-sherbert | op-ed editor
Lots of us on social media are big sharers. Even if it’s just a really good meme, posting something to get a reaction from others is a way of letting people know what we care about, and sometimes we share things with the intent to do some good. While it isn’t activism on its own, I think sharing news stories on a timeline is a perfectly legitimate way to spread awareness of an issue. Especially in times of political unrest, that’s exactly why a lot of people share.
However, especially during weeks like this, on the heels of an event like the Kavanaugh trial, we need to be very careful about what we’re tweeting out or posting on a Facebook feed for everyone to see. Like in any public space, you should take care not to say anything that might reasonably be hurtful. And what’s hurtful to someone “in the room” – someone on your feed – might not be the same as what’s hurtful to you.
Many survivors of assault live afterward with post-traumatic stress. The reason it’s not funny to make “triggered” jokes is because for someone with PTSD, being triggered by something that reminds you of your trauma is a seriously terrifying experience. Although these episodes are different for everyone, it’s common to feel as though the trauma is happening again, or as though you will die; it also comes with a variety of physical symptoms.
It’s fair to say no one wants to cause another person to experience something like this, even by accident. But there is a chance that some of us may have already, because when we mock people with PTSD, it becomes much more difficult for them to be honest about what they find upsetting. This means we need to proactively consider whether or not what we’re sharing on social media might trigger someone – and the things people are sharing about Ford vs. Kavanaugh can contain content we would all agree is upsetting.
Do not choose anything for shock value when you speak about sexual assault. Graphic, sensationalist comments and pictures might spark fury in some people and seem powerful to you, but to a survivor, these things can be like a punch in the gut. Remember that when an assault is in the news, it’s constantly blaring from every TV station and fills the conversations of friends and family. When you share things to a feed that are loud and un-ignorable, you’re exposing survivors to that news again, without warning.
It is a good instinct to want to send out a message when so many people are reeling from the trial and the public discussion of horrific abuse. We should make sure that the messages we’re sending, though, aren’t containing details that make the hurt worse. Instead, let’s keep checking up on our friends and letting the survivors in our lives know that they are deserving of love, respect and justice.