8M and care (or lack thereof)

I took part in some activities for 8th March in Sevilla with friends and our collective Disidencias del Sur and our banner "We too are feminism: trans, queers, nonbinaries". I started with lunch in the Alameda de Hércules. There was a good atmosphere when I arrived, with music and people dancing. Then there was a show by Flamenco Inclusivo, a show that also dealt with the issue of abuse, and that for me was not only a trigger for a flashback, but it re-traumatised me. I had to cry for most of the show, and it took me a long time to recover with the support of some friends and comrades. When they repeated their show at the end of the demonstration at the Palacio San Telmo I decided to move away, and, luckily, a friend accompanied me. The truth is that just listening to the beginnings of the music and thinking about the show triggered another flashback.

Feminism claims to put care at the centre, something that I think is essential to build a better and fairer world. But, for me, there was a lack of care in this case. A show, a work of art designed to touch you, to move you - and I haven't spoken to anyone who hasn't been moved - is fine. But for people who have been abused, who suffer from post-traumatic stress, such a work not only touches you, it can be the trigger that leads to a flashback, to memories of your trauma, or, worse, it can re-traumatise you, and that's what happened to me. This show has added yet another image and sound to my already quite extensive collection of images of trauma, sexual abuse, etc. It's not what I really needed.

It seems to me a lack of care on the part of the organisers and Flamenco Inclusivo, perhaps due to a lack of awareness of trauma and what post-traumatic stress means. If I had known about the content before, I would have walked away already in the Alameda, as I am well aware that at the moment I cannot sustain the emotions (and images/memories) that such a performance causes me.

There is the concept of content warning or trigger warning, to warn of sensitive or potentially triggering content. Carolina Casado explains (I don't agree with her article in general, but her explanation is useful):

A trigger warning is nothing more than a content warning prior to reading a novel, watching a film or series, etc., which is intended to warn the person of potentially sensitive content that may be encountered and which may have some kind of emotional impact, especially if that person has experienced something similar in the past. They therefore have a protective function.

The most common trigger warnings are those referring to sexual abuse content, violence in all its forms and mental health disorders.


Trigger warnings emerged to adhere to the post-traumatic sense of the term. They alerted victims of physical or sexual assault that the material to be presented next might awaken those traumatic memories, preparing them for such a confrontation.

For me, a trigger warning would have been useful to be able to decide whether or not to expose myself to this content. I would most likely have decided not to, so as not to have another flashback or be re-traumatised. And my flashbacks are not the worst. I have seen a friend in their flashback, completely dissociated from themselves, unaware of their surroundings, unable to communicate or move. I imagine a person has a flashback of this kind, and they are alone or none of their peers know about their trauma and how to respond to their flashback, how to help them in this moment.

I am aware that there is a whole scientific controversy about whether content or trigger warnings are useful or counterproductive. The debate is about whether it is useful for traumatised people to avoid triggers. And what I am missing in this debate are important nuances.

Does it make sense to avoid triggers all my life, so that I don't have to remind myself of my trauma? For me, obviously not. It is important to work on my trauma. It would be difficult to live a full and healthy life trying to always avoid all the things that could remind me of my trauma. In these discussions about the usefulness of trigger warnings, there is a lot of talk about the therapy of exposure to triggers (more with examples of a phobia, such as spider phobia). The problem is that in therapy the exposure is done in a safe context, with professional accompaniment, and the person knows that this is going to happen. They can prepare themselves, and if they are overcome by emotions there is professional support. But at a rally, or any other kind of event, without warning, the triggering content comes as a surprise, the context can be unsafe, and there is no professional support, and if there is support from friends or colleagues it is not guaranteed either. The traumatised person may be completely emotionally overwhelmed, or, in the worst case, as dissociated as my friend in another context, and neither know where they are, nor are they aware of their surroundings, nor can they communicate.

For me, trigger warnings are an important form of care for traumatised people. According to a study carried out in Spain in 2006, the prevalence of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the general population is 1.95%. I imagine that among the participants in a demonstration on the 8th of March this percentage could be even higher, as many women (and trans, nonbinary, queer people) have suffered sexual abuse or other types of abuse.

Let's take care of our traumatised comrades and sisters, especially when they have very open wounds (like me at the moment), and give them the opportunity to make a conscious decision about whether or not they want to expose themselves to a trigger, whether or not they feel able to sustain themselves and/or have the support they need to do so. It is not about encouraging lives of avoiding triggers, it is about empowering traumatised people to make the decisions that are best for them at this time.

Let's talk about trauma and care. Let's put care at the centre - for real.