What Are Triggers?


Free stock image, photographer unknown


Some girls find that memories of their abuse experience come back with certain smells or sounds, when they hear a certain song, or when they are touched in a certain way. These are called “triggers.” One of my clients was molested in the bathtub and was triggered by a memory of the molestation anytime she tried to take a bath. Another client could not stand having her lover whisper to her during intimacy. Her brother used to whisper and cover her mouth when he abused her.

All kinds of experiences can act as triggers—whether you like it or not, or expect it or not. It can happen when you’re watching a movie or reading a book and you find yourself identifying with a character who was abused. Or it might happen when you hear a story on social media, or when another girl starts telling you what happened to her and you suddenly realize, “Yes, that happened to me, too. What my brother/uncle/father/family friend did to me was rape. It was incest; it was a sexual violation!” “That was not a date gone bad, that was date rape!”  My client who was molested in the bath, for instance, made the choice to take back the experience of bathing. She bought herself bath oils and candles and plays soft, sweet music so she can relax into the soothing waters. It didn’t work at once, of course, but now she really enjoys a hot bath and no longer associates it with her abuse.  Eventually, you can re-program your trauma with your agency and empower yourself and your experiences!


-- Selected from Chapter 2 Invisible Girls