OPINION: Media glorifying traumatic experiences leads to overwhelming anxiety

Kaitlyn Finchler, Campus Editor

Editor’s Note: The following article contains discussions of sexual violence and assault.

With new crime-centered shows coming around like hotcakes, it takes an inner battle to decide if they’re doing more harm than good. 

Shows such as “Bones,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “Criminal Minds” beg the question of exactly how much violence people should be exposed to.

While not always totally factual, some shows were based on true stories, which settled in a never-ending, growing spout of anxiety. 

While I loved cheering on Dr. Temperance Brennan in “Bones” or Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss in “Criminal Minds,” every time I saw a scene regarding sexual assault or rape, I immediately tensed up.

I started watching these shows when I was around 12 years old. I loved them. I still do, but have to keep an eye on my mental stability when doing so now. 

These shows also, unsurprisingly, set unrealistic expectations. I saw violence so often at a young age I thought it was normal. They never did, and never would, but it made me wonder if my parents would start hitting me.

When “13 Reasons Why” aired in 2017, I was initially excited because I had read the book in middle school. I regret that choice now. There’s an extremely graphic sexual assault scene that made me want to throw up on sight. I can still picture that scene in my head years later.

In the summer of 2019, right before college, I decided to go on birth control. Not because I was having sex or period issues — I was scared of eventually being assaulted.

In a way, these shows prepared me for what I deemed “the inevitable,” and I was right. I used to be a person who was never afraid of anything. I would go on walks around campus at midnight to clear my head. 

Then, the inevitable happened. It wasn’t just a “what if” anymore. It happened in my own bed. The same bed I would watch these shows on my TV. It wasn’t safe anymore. Nothing was safe anymore.

I didn’t know how to go about it at first. It was my coworker, and I had invited him over to have a few drinks because I was lonely and wanted company. I told my manager, and she said, “But he’s a really good employee.”

While life itself doesn’t include a trigger warning, these shows do. In some sort of messed-up way, watching the shows allowed me to know what I was getting myself into.

Survivors are lower than the assailants on the viewers’ totem poll. Whether it’s Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Joe Goldberg in “You,” the ones committing the crime get all of the glory, no matter how undeserved or blatantly disgusting it may be.

Why is it so normalized to watch a rape scene but not women taking the forefront in media? There simply cannot be demand for watching sexual violence without taking a hard look at how sick the audiences and producers really are.

Genuinely, who is writing a script and goes “Hey, what if the main character was raped at a nightclub?” Without going too off track, there is no innocent party. From producers to actors, audiences and corporations, everyone is to blame for exposing people to unwarranted, graphic sexual violence.

Society glorifies, and dare I say, romanticizes sexual assault and violence. To ostracize survivors of these crimes into a Hollywood film or show is dehumanizing beyond recognition.

Kaitlyn Finchler is a campus editor. Contact her at [email protected]