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Almost half of law students want trigger warnings before being taught ‘hard subjects’ like rape

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Exclusive research: Forewarned is forearmed, say 48% of undergrads

An exclusive survey of Legal Cheek readers has shown that almost half of undergraduate law students want their tutors and lecturers to use trigger warnings when teaching hard subjects like rape and war crimes.

Trigger warnings have been adopted in law departments including at the University of Oxford, this leading barrister Matthew Scott to throw scorn at the “delicate flowers” being taught there. But perhaps aspiring lawyers are not as delicate as Scott has suggested: 52% of the law students we surveyed would rather not be forewarned about potentially distressing content in tutorials and lectures.

Comments from respondents voting along majority lines include: “Students that choose to take law should already understand that they will inevitably come across these hard subjects”; “What kind of lawyers do we create if some of them even can’t handle the theory of these topics?”; “Grow the hell up”; “Left wing post-truth tosh”; and “It’s essential to develop a good emotional detachment”.

Survey results (undergraduate law students)

Strong words, but the numbers do show this was a tightly-fought contest. The margin between ‘yes to trigger warnings’ and ‘no to trigger warnings’ was just a few percentage points, 48% of students giving them the thumbs up.

A number of pro-trigger warnings students left us comments as part of the survey to explain their vote. These include: “I think a brief warning at the start of the lecture about sensitive material would suffice”, and “It’s better to warn people rather than jump right into topics which could cause students a varying amount of distress”. Another respondent said:

“As a law student with PTSD, it’s not that I am in any way unwilling to learn all subjects, I am simply thankful for some warning so I can mentally prepare and compartmentalise.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, survey respondents’ penchant for trigger warnings became lesser and lesser when we widened our survey results away from undergraduate law students and towards lawyers.

If you look exclusively at non-law students and postgraduate students (this including Graduate Diploma in Law, Bar Professional Training Course and Legal Practice Course students), just 37% want trigger warnings.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Leaving students to the side and filtering the results to just include solicitors, barristers, academics, paralegals and ‘Other’, 33% voted in the negative when asked: “Should law tutors and lecturers use trigger warnings when teaching hard subjects, like rape and war crimes?”

Comments for this subset of survey-takers include: “The law doesn’t mollycoddle — if you can’t stomach it then go and do something else”, and “There will be no trigger warnings when in the world of work. Get used to it, you fucking sissy”.

Survey results (all respondents)

Overall, 41% of the 419 people who answered the survey threw their support behind the use of trigger warnings, while 59% did not.

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101 Comments

Snowflake Generation

The snowball just keeps on rolling..

Little Miss Wannabe-Top-Lawyer

I always wear my pull-ups and carry a sick bag to lecturers in case I get triggered.

I’m special.

Special Snowflake

OOH ME TRIGGAZZZZZ!!!!!

Anonymous

Lawyers pretending to have backbone is my new favourite meme

Not Amused

The term ‘trigger warning’ is inappropriate and a clear insult to genuine sufferers of PTSD.

Anonymous

I agree 100%

Anonymous

I agree 108.9%

Anonymous

Do you have any basis for assuming that PTSD does not occur in students? The NHS page on the subject says that it affects 1 in 3 people who suffer a traumatic incident, like an isolated assault or prolonged abuse. If that is correct it is inevitable that there will be “genuine sufferers” of PTSD among the student population.

Anonymous

Even if you think that PTSD only affects people who have been in war zones (contrary to how clinicians seem to view the condition), the UK has taken a not insignificant number of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan in the last 15 years. I know of a handful in a London school which I have a connection with — I presume this is replicated in many schools in urban areas. Many of these kids will be going to uni — so there’s no reason to assume that the UK student body doesn’t include people with this kind of experience.

Trumpenkrieg

So people have to suffer a detriment to their education because of how we are required to bend over backward to accommodate these people who have already won the lottery of life by having been accepted into this country? Sounds rational.

Anonymous

In what sense are people going to suffer a detriment to their education?

Anonymous

If departments decide to dumb down the teaching of difficult subjects to avoid causing offence or distress, then people will suffer a detriment to their education.

Anonymous

That is not ‘trigger warnings’ though…

Anonymous

No, but dumbing down lecture content could be a potential consequence of the over use of trigger warnings. Every lecturer undertakes a reflective review of every lecture, tutorial and seminar they deliver. Part of that review focuses on attendance. If attendance is low because trigger warnings about content have kept people away then a decision may just be made to teach the subject matter at a superficial level, especially if doing so means no trigger warning is required. No trigger warning will also drive up attendance.

Now before I get jumped on, I’m not opposed to trigger warnings for people that have experienced a traumatic event and suffer from PTSD. For those people trigger warnings are immensely valuable. What I do object to is the value of trigger warnings for PTSD sufferers being diminished because trigger warning has been adopted as a trendy sobriquet to placate the easily offended who may be shocked and even upset, rightly so, by some of the subject matter. Exposure to such material, for a short period of time, should not be inducing the sort of terror that leads to PTSD. Clearly the value is being diminished because the instant reaction, as evidenced in this comments section, is snowflake. Genuine sufferers of PTSD, and I’ve met a few, are not snowflakes and to label them as such is deeply offensive.

If the easily offended need a warning that the content of a lecture may cause a little distress, fine, they can have a warning, but it shouldn’t be called, even informally, a trigger warning.

Anonymous

You wouldn’t need a trigger warning if you were going to avoid a topic!

Trumpenkrieg

Because the teacher should teach the bloody subject not waste my time with making me listen to “trigger warnings” for these plonkers.

Anonymous

You’re the type of bastard who would rather have epileptics have a fit than have to sit through the 5 second warning before certain movies.

I hope you get what you deserve one day. You are a horrible piece of work. I hope reincarnation is a thing and you come back as a dung beetle.

Anonymous

I feel like if epileptics choose to watch a movie, then they are accepting the risks.

I would also remove the need to print May contain Milk, on milk bottles, and remove the requirement to advise that this news articles may contain flashing images – gosh really?!

Anonymous

As an epileptic, I agree that you take the risk seeing such a film whether there is a “warning” it not.

I am triggered by you implying all epileptics are photosensitive.

I am triggered by you comparing epileptics to trigger warnings.

You should put trigger warnings before you post.

Trumpenkrieg

You are equating people who suffer from genuine medical conditions such as epilepsy with the sort of cosseted middle class SJW idiot who ‘self-diagnoses’ with every disorder in the psychiatric diagnostic manual in order to get attention among their peer group, who these people demanding trigger warnings at the start of lectures generally are.

Anonymous

You’re a c*nt. You won the lottery of life by being born here. They have been through a lot already.

Trumpenkrieg

How do you know. You presume that they have been through a lot, because you are a bleeding heart liberal and feigning concern for the Other is part of your religion. some of them may have been through a lot but most are chancers coming here for the chance to work cash in hand and wire money back to their families, doubly fucking over this country, first by depriving the exchequer of income tax and second by living 8 to a room and living off tuna pasta while they send every dime they have to spare overseas instead of spending it here and stimulating this economy.

Anonymous

NHS also wants doctors to not refer to pregnant women as mothers.

Anonymous

That is correct. They are not yet mothers. A lot of things can go wrong with childbirth. Also that assumes that the couple identify with traditional gender classifications and roles. I am currently a man but when me and my wife have our child I am going to be a stay at home mother. I contemplated being a stay at home father but I decided that being a mother would be better for me so I am going full-out with the surgery. However, even if I was going to physically stay as a man I would still prefer to use the term mother. My wife does not like the term father or mother, she will just be a parent.

Pascal

Sounds like your baps are well and truly buttered mate LOL, you freakazoid

Anonymous

Ha ha true. For the poster bellow loosing your child doesn’t make you any less of a mother. The second a foubd out that I pregnant for the first time my life became about my child, I became a mother then and there. The reason why the NHS doesn’t like the term mother is because it isn’t PC or completely inclusive.

Another idiotic thing the NHS advocates is low fat dairy.

BoredLegalReccy

Spelling is not your strong point.

Trumpenkrieg

In which “isolated assault” means someone manspreading next to you and their leg making slight contact with yours and “prolonged abuse” means logging on to the Guardian comment section one more than one occasion to find that somebody of a centre-right political persuasion has disagreed with you.

Anonymous

The poster was actually referring to full penetration.

Jones Day Partner

…You rang?

Anonymous

I’m not sure what more a trigger warning you need than the timetable. The sexual offences lectures and tutorials will contain details of sexual offences (obviously). The offences against the person lectures and tutorials will contain details of offences against the person (again, obviously).

Ok, people might need a bit of time to steel themselves for content their past experiences makes difficult for them, but you can get that by checking the already available information.

Anonymous

I agree with this 100% too.

Triggered Loon

RAPE! RAPE! RAAAAAAPE!

OPINIONS I DON’T LIKE ARE RAPE!

Anonymous

48% don’t count, just look at the referendum…

Anonymous

We will stand up and we will be heard.

There will be a backlash.

Anonymous

As a student I received an overview of every lecture and workshop before I attended. This helped me to understand the content and what may be included. Now in practice I never know what will be put in front of me until I have started reading. No practicing lawyer, barristers or solicitors, will receive a ‘trigger warning’ when they receive a new case and will instead have to act regardless. If students are given trigger warnings, surely this is not preparing them for the world of work. Obviously there will be things within the course that will effect people in different ways, but you cannot be wrapped in cotton wool for your lifetime

Anonymous

I agree, however the LLB nowadays I find is being geared towards a purely academic subject… Finding a lot of tutors assume their students aren’t going in to practice law so they try and cover for both types of students

It does my head in, I’m being spoken to as if I’m going on to do a PhD in law, no, I want to go into practice, but I’m being carefully looked after instead of given a challenge while at uni

Anonymous

The idea that lawyers inevitably come across disturbing material in practice and can’t do anything about this is nonsense.

I’m a commercial lawyer and have never had to deal with any matter relating to sexual assault, abuse, torture etc. Unlike you, and like most lawyers, I do have a good idea of what a matter is going to be about before I read into it because before I start work I give a fee estimate based on a description of what is required, and because I only practice in a specialised area.

Someone who wanted to avoid working on sexual assault or abuse could have a legal career in any area other than crime or family. If they were asked to act in a matter they found “triggering” it would be perfectly proper for them to decline.

Anonymous

You may be surprised. I am a pensions lawyer and there is a bit of a rape problem amongst our trustee clients.

Frederick

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Just Anonymous

I disagree.

Rape and sexual abuse issues aren’t neatly confined to crime/family issues.

For example, I encountered a landlord and tenant case once where the tenant was accusing the landlord of being a pervert who had sexually harassed her.

At the Bar, the cab rank rule allows us to decline instructions in areas we don’t practise in.

It does not allow to us to decline cases which raise issues we personally find distressing.

Anonymous

At the bar we are under a duty to act in the best interests of our clients. If a case is going to make us suffer emotional distress and we consider that this is going to affect our ability to handle the case properly, then we are under an obligation to decline to act. RC21 – “You must not accept instructions to act in a particular matter if: … you are not competent to handle the particular matter or otherwise do not have enough experience to handle the matter.”

Just Anonymous

The ‘experience’ exemption is irrelevant here.

As for ‘competence’ that could hold only if you had a diagnosed mental health condition which covered the particular issue in question.

What that exemption cannot cover is hurt feelings and subjective distress. Such people are perfectly competent to take the case – they just don’t want to. That isn’t good enough.

Anonymous

Mental health conditions are NOT real. Mental health conditions are EXCUSES used by shallow and WEAK little SNOWFLAKES who take the easy route out and cannot DEAL WITH issues that we ALL suffer in life. This kind of thing makes me SICK. OOOH LOOK AT ME, I DON’T LIKE SOMETHING SO I CLAIM IT IS A HEALTH CONDITION EVEN THOUGH NOTHING IS PHYSICALLY WRONG. Well… when lose at Monopoly I get MAD. Does that make me MENTAL? It makes me want to be a WORTHLESS, good-for-nothing NO-LIFE because of the MENTAL anger that builds…

STUPID SNOWFLAKES. DEAL WITH LIFE.

Anonymous

I hope you are not actually a barrister. There is absolutely nothing in the bar handbook or its notes about a medical note, nor is there anything else limiting the interpretation of the term competence. The word should be given its ordinary and natural meaning, as is usual in construction. The idea that you have a duty to take on a case when you know that your ability to argue it is impaired because of mental distress is ridiculous — clearly the opposite is true.

Just Anonymous

Our fundamental duty is to provide legal representation for those who need it – irrespective of our own personal feelings.

Your construction undermines that duty – by allowing us to reject instructions precisely on the basis of personal feelings.

Indeed, you could use exactly the same logic to say, “I think my client is guilty/lying/in the wrong, so my ability to defend him is impaired.”

Unless you have an objective medical condition which prevents you from so doing, your duty to your client requires you to put your personal feelings to one side and argue the case. If you don’t like it – tough!

Anonymous

I presume that people who benefit from “trigger warnings” do have an “objective medical condition”, i.e. ptsd. In any case, yes, if instructions make you uncomfortable but don’t impair your ability to act, the cab rank rule says you mustn’t act. But if instructions give you a panic attack or cause you to burst into tears every time you read them, your ability to act is impaired, and it’s clearly not in the best interest of your client for you to take the case. You don’t need a medical note to ascertain this, and what a doctor thinks is not the test — the test is what is in the best interests of your client.

Just Anonymous

We now seem to agree that an objective medical condition is required before you decline instructions.

So why you’re so resistant to having the existence of such a condition established through medical science, I don’t understand.

Anonymous

Well, as it happens, I don’t agree that an “objective medical condition” (whatever that means) is the test. There is absolutely nothing in the handbook or any other published guidance to back this up. The test is whether you are ‘competent’ – it’s a question for your professional judgment as a lawyer, and not for a doctor. It’s easy to think of circumstances in which a person is not ill, but is also not competent to deal with a case. A barrister whose wife has died the day before might be too grief-stricken to accept instructions the next day. They are not mentally ill, but they would also not be in breach of the cab rank rule.

However, by definition anyone who benefits from a trigger warning is going to have an “objective medical condition”, which rather underlines my point that it’s perfectly possible to put broadly equivalent safeguards in place in practice as a lawyer as are now being proposed in universities.

Trumpenkrieg

Just listen to you.

You are in a courtroom shuffling papers and speaking to people.

You are not –

-In a sexual assault referral centre inspecting the vagina of a woman who has been violently raped
-On an a&E ward with a drunk idiot on friday night screaming in your face
-on the door of a nightclub with pissed up twats trying to bottle you

Stop looking for excuses for your lack of mental fortitude and get on with your job, or quit the profession and leave it to the non-snowflakes

Anonymous

Could not have said it better myself trumpy.

Anonymous

Sorry I must have missed the part in the Solicitors Code of Conduct that states you cannot act for a client if you it may cause ‘triggering’.

Sleepy lawyer

I think the idea that solicitors working for a commercial firm will have to deal with rape is slightly spurious.

On occasion a case might involve it (twice in a career maybe) but you’d be perfectly entitled to days the partner- can I have a word about this case in private? And explain you where raped and can’t work on this case. I’m sure there will be plenty of other cases floating around.

Perhaps I says this as someone who works in crime and knows how grim these case are to actually deal with.

Anonymous

I must have missed the part of the solicitor’s code of conduct which applies the cab rank rule to solicitors.

Defence Solicitor

You did. Cab Rank does not apply to litigation for solicitors, but does apply to advocacy by solicitors. In any event the Standard Criminal Contract requires defence solicitors to accept all cases on a Court or Police Station Duty assigned to them by the LAA. You are not entitled to decline to act on a Court / Police Station Duty for clients who ask for the Duty Solicitor and are within the Duty Solicitor Scheme (1st Appearance and the offence is imprisonable for a Court Duties and being interviewed under caution for a police station attendance). You do not know what the allegation is until the call from the DSCC comes in.

Anonymous

Snowflakes have no place at university or in a profession where the freedom of wrongly accused a persons individual freedom depends on their lawyers ability to navigate and tackle subjects that may be considered distressing or offensive to some.

In practice it is unlike that a judge will halt trial proceedings because because counsel needs needs mollycoddled in order to mentally prepare to deal with distressing subjects.

This victimhood safe space culture needs to be eradicated. Such pathetic and pedantic sentimentality risks underming the quality of higher education.

Just Anonymous

I was going to make a substantive comment, but this says it all. Well said!

Anonymous

Bunch of SNOWFLAKES. I cannot believe that my GRANDFATHER fought in the WAR just for this kind of LUNACY to happen. I think we need to bring back CONSCRIPTION to teach these INFIDELS a lesson they will NEVER forget.

Anonymous

See, I was a good friend of your grandfather’s. We were in that pit of hell together over five years. Hopefully…you’ll never have to experience this yourself, but when two men are in a situation like me and your Grandfather were, for as long as we were, you take on certain responsibilities of the other. If it had been me who had not made it, Major Coolidge would be talkin’ right now to my son Jim. But the way it turned out is I’m talkin’ to you, Butch. I got somethin’ for you…

Anonymous

I know where that DISGUSTING watch has been. Get that AWAY from me.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

Rugged little scoundrels like you really do grind my gears. F*ck your old fashioned values and f*ck your grandfather.

Anonymous

What a bunch of liberal snowflakes. What will they do once they practice law, will they ask their clients to place trigger warnings on briefs or in conversations?

Trumpenkrieg

Presumably these people will end up as research academics drumming up 101 reasons why defendants rights in rape cases are a tool of the patriarchy or some equally vacuous woe is me argument

Snowflake

I’m so triggered – everyone stop invading my safe space by posting harmful comments on here!

Anonymous

Grow up.

Rape and murder is normal. Most people have raped, been raped or murdered. That is a fact of life and if you haven’t you are in a minority.

Libeturd Leftie

Where do you live, murder and rape are no where normal! Most people I know have not raped, been raped or murder… perspective please!

Anonymous

Oh come off it. I bet you’ve got the knife out after a cheeky Friday booze up once or twice.

Hellflake

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Snowflake

Thank you for moderating LC! I can’t cope with all this negativity! Maybe you could set up a separate thread only for people who won’t invade my safe space? You have to pay for it all and put the work in, but as long as I am sheltered from offence, it’ll be worth it.

Anonymous

Seems like you can’t handle the truth. The world is not all sunshine and rainbows. It can be a very mean and nasty place. You should enter my dark world, it is fascinating and fun.

Snowflake

Do you have candy?

Anonymous

I do. Step inside my van. My candy can be quite sticky so it is probably best to remove your clothes when you get in.

Anonymous

If the Nazis were taking over Europe just now, I wonder how the youth of our country would manage.

Pound to a penny 50% would manage to wangle their way out of conscription by claiming some sort of weakness.

Is this really what has become of our British stuff upper lip?

Trumpenkrieg

Demanding trigger warnings is a shit test. Once you cede ground to these people, they only come back with more substantial demands. The only reasonable response by institutions to demands from these mewling, attention seeking brats is refuse point blank any sort of accommodation. If they don’t like it, show them the door. The academy and the legal profession and consequently the public will be much better off without them. If you want to clutch pearls and wring hands, go to the sociology department.

Anonymous

That is not enough. We could make them wear some sort of a symbol to warn people about them – perhaps a hexagon.

Anonymous

Shackles. Only solution.

Trumpenkrieg

Is this your mature response to people you disagree with – bring up the Holocaust?

Way to show how what a caring, sharing, tolerant liberal you are.

Anonymous

I’m a liberal but it doesn’t mean I’m not a horrible bastard. I will come down on people with backward traditional views like the Hammer of Thor.

Trumpenkrieg

I fancy rather that you’ll come down with a runny nose.

Anonymous

I wouldn’t like to hold your cold, grubby mits.

I have soft hands. Even softer than the hands of my wife.

That said, she is a labourer.

Jojo

Exclusive research? Baffles me that LC are proud that no one else has run such a stupid survey before them.

Anonymous

Yes, great training for when they enter the workplace where everything is labelled with trigger warnings.

Anonymous

Things can change. I can sit anywhere I like on the bus but my grandparents could not.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

It is going the other way. At my firm they only have gender neutral toilets. I entered the ladies and there was a man with his penis out. It was very disturbing.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

How did you enter ‘the ladies’ when you don’t have gendered toilets?

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Not sure that someone of any gender going into a non-gender specfic toilet could be considered ‘disgusting’, unwritten rule or no.

Jones Day Senior Associate

Glad my latest business plan has you wooed.

Anonymous

More accurate:
“Only a minority of students polled want trigger warnings.”

Anonymous

Utter BS. Does the 48% that voted for trigger warnings realise that they won’t be receiving them in practice when they meet real clients and real people?

Albeit not all undergrads go on with a view to practice, that’s not how real life works. Get over it.

New to this

Whilst your comments are hilarious I think you focus your attentions on the halfwits that carried out the survey

Legion

I thought a trigger warning is only given after the police have shot you?

Kara

Is the name of the class not enough of a warning? When you sign up for “Criminal Law” you can and should take judicial notice that “triggering” subjects and cases will be covered.

Anonymous

As has previously been mentioned, in real-life practice many fields can throw up distressing stories, it’s not just crime or family. Any aspiring lawyer needs to be aware that life is not always fun and frolics, they have to face the down and dirty as well.

Snowflake Melter

I think the following is worth reading, from an earlier post:

I think the point that the (albeit unhinged) writer was trying to make is that the current generation are often shielded from negative feedback when young, and this makes it all the more difficult to deal with when they enter young adulthood.

The analogy (presumably) being that earlier generations learned two things as a result of negative feedback:

1. How to deal with adverse emotions/ situations.

2. How to avoid them in future.

The bed wetting analogy actually makes sense. Previous generations would have either endured the discomfort of a wet bed or the humiliation of having to wear nappies, and this taught them not to wet the bed.

The current generation have been given “Drynites” which eliminate both the discomfort of the wet bed and the humiliation of the nappy, so they can wear a pair of absorbent pants and pretend that the problem does not exist.

They are thereby shielded from the negative emotion/ feeling/ feedback but the problem does not go away as nothing is being learned, and you end up with an adult bedwetter who’s delicate feelings have not been disturbed.

Safe-spaces and being protected from offence are part of the same problem. The young person does not learn how to handle the negative situation and learn from it, or respond to it. Instead, they grow up believing that they are entitled to be protected and cannot handle the situation when they are not being kept “safe”.

Ultimately, going after little perceived unfairnesses in situations like this is like a four year old complaining that her companion’s cake has got a cherry on top whilst hers hasn’t.

In both cases, the individual concerned needs to learn to get over it, and deal with it, early on.

Rebecca

You don’t get a trigger warning when you go into practice.

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