Challenges for Survivors: Watching Talkshows

Challenges for Survivors: Watching Movies and TV Shows

Talk shows about rape, sexual assault, incest and child abuse can be great tools for informing the public about these important issues. They can also be very hard for survivors to watch!

Why do talk shows trigger such strong emotions?

  • They often deal with topics that are important to survivors
  • They often portray survivors in emotionally charged situations (confronting an abuser, describing abuse in detail, telling a parent about the abuse, etc.)
  • Some talk shows sensationalize survivors’ experiences and emphasize their trauma without showing any of their healing process
    • They tend to emphasize the aspects of victimization that get the most reaction from the audience

What kind of reactions might a survivor experience when watching a talk show?

  • Survivors’ reactions to watching talk shows can include
    • Sadness
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Flashbacks
    • Depression
    • Irritability
  • They can also include some positive reactions!
    • Feeling validated
    • Learning about new resources
    • Feeling connected

How can I avoid having problems if I choose to watch talk shows?

  • Don’t watch something just because it’s on. Limit your viewing by only watching shows that really interest you.
    • Many talk shows have a blurb in the TV Guide or on the show’s website that will give you some idea of what to expect on the show.
  • Record shows for viewing at your convenience. When you’re ready, consider watching with a friend or someone who can help keep you calm and help distract you if you feel yourself getting too caught up in the show.
  • Avoid channel-surfing. When you channel-surf, there’s a bigger risk that you will end up watching an upsetting show when you’re not prepared to deal with it.
  • Take a break!
    • If you’re watching a show and you find that you’re getting upset, it’s okay to turn the TV off and find something else to do!
      • Take a walk or go to the gym (exercise can be a great way to dispel feelings of anxiety and depression)
      • Call a friend or family member to talk
      • Write in a journal or diary.
  • Watching with a friend can help you maintain your emotional distance from what you’re watching.
  • Don’t sit in front of the TV all day!
    • Remember that it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of talk shows. Don’t add to your own trauma by constantly exposing yourself to other people’s problems.

If you watch talk shows and you find them upsetting, remember:

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