Here’s What You Can Do If #MeToo Is Triggering For You

by James Hale
Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

After exploding on social media on Oct. 15, the #MeToo hashtag has only continued growing in popularity, with more than 1.2 million tweets and "millions more" Facebook posts, according to CNN. But some people find the sexual assault-related hashtag triggering, and if you're one of them, here's what you can do to exercise some self-care and keep yourself protected.

#MeToo surfaced as a response to the sexual harassment and assault allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein, and it functions as a way for people to share stories about being sexually harassed and/or assaulted with two simple words. And while the last thing survivors of sexual assault should ever hear is that them coming forward is negatively impacting someone else, we have to pay attention to the effects #MeToo is having on some survivors.

But while #MeToo is intended as a movement both of solidarity and of forcing people in denial or ignorance to recognize the magnitude of the problem, its omnipresence can be nearly impossible to deal with for lots of survivors.

"Because #MeToo is so prominent, a lot of my clients feel it's inescapable," Boston-based therapist Aida Manduley told CNN. "I am concerned with the victims of sexual trauma and violence who are saying to me 'I can't get away from the trigger, it's everywhere.'"

If this is true for you, there are precautions you can take to keep yourself safe.

Since #MeToo is largely present across social media, avoiding Facebook and Twitter for a while may be helpful, but for a lot of people, staying off social media entirely is nearly impossible. For some survivors, even logging on to social media sites has become triggering. One survivor (who asked not to be identified by name) told NBC that "I can't look at Facebook without having a flashback," and described social media as a "trigger factory."

If that's your situation, taking a step back, even for a short while, is a good start. But it's totally understandable if staying away from social media until #MeToo is a little less prominent isn't ideal — after all, there's no telling how long the hashtag will continue to be in the spotlight. Social media may be necessary for your job, or may be the only way you connect with some family members or friends. Social media might also be where your biggest support network resides. So, if you can't avoid social media entirely, you can filter what you see.

For Twitter, apps like Tweetdeck offer a mute function, where specific keywords, phrases, and hashtags can be muted from your feed. You can also create lists of users on Twitter, so it's possible to create a list of people you know won't tweet #MeToo content, and change your settings so you only see their tweets.

As for Facebook, filtering is a little trickier. There's Social Fixer for Google Chrome, which offers news feed filtering by content, but there's no designed-by-Facebook app or program that allows you to blacklist words from your news feed, making it tough to ensure 100 percent safety.

Other social media sites are a mixed bag; there's Tumblr Savior for Tumblr, where you can blacklist words and tags, but nothing for Instagram, which does offer a filter for comments, but nothing to filter your stream.

While messing around with filtering apps and blocking every hashtag that could trigger you may sound tedious, for many survivors it's one of the easiest things about #MeToo to grapple with. Another, more difficult way to cope with being triggered by #MeToo is taking time to focus on yourself and understand that the emotions you're experiencing, no matter how out of place or nonsensical they may feel, are not shameful or wrong.

Survivors of sexual violence often experience simultaneous, dichotic reactions when stories like this bloom and takes over the news cycle. Sashka, a 36-year-old who spoke with NBC, said the scandal has caused her feelings of self-blame stemming from her own assault to resurface, and that reading other people's stories "feels awful."

But she also said #MeToo helps her know she's not alone.

Laura Palumbo, a certified sexual assault counselor and communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, spoke with NBC as well, and she said these warring emotions are a common reaction.

She explained, "[The] trauma that you've experienced is now becoming an element of the national conversation, so something that you, as an individual, have experienced that was a really difficult experience is now becoming a feature of everyday conversation."

Samantha Manewitz, a licensed social worker and sex therapist, told NBC that if survivors feel retraumatized during events like this, "Listen to your instincts. It is absolutely OK to step away if you find yourself flooded and overwhelmed. There is no wrong way to feel about this. You are not alone, and it is OK to seek help. You don't have to fight this fight alone."

One last — but certainly not least important — thing you can do is to reach out to others. When viral hashtags take over, it may seem like everyone on your Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed is talking about them. But there are people who feel the same way you do, and networking with them to support one another can be vital to maintaining good mental health.

Along with searching within your own friends and acquaintances, you can contact national networks like RAINN or find smaller support groups in your home city or at your local college.

Even if you're not comfortable reaching out to people that way, though, there is anonymous support available widely. You can call RAINN's hotline at (800) 656-4673, talk to a volunteer from Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860, or chat online with an advocate from 1in6, an organization which supports men who are survivors of sexual violence.

Above all, remember that as a survivor, your reaction — or reactions — to #MeToo are valid, and it is your right to protect yourself from being triggered.