And somewhere around 20% of female students have experienced some form sexual assault or rape, and nearly all have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
So much of this is overblown hyperbole in the press (including the Atlantic piece with conflates racial microagressions with trigger warnings) that repeat ad nauseum the same handful of incidents where people (usually undergraduates) have taken the idea of trigger warnings too far and demanded that they allowed to skip required course material (which inevitably resulted in the university refusing to honor the absurd request). A survey of US universities found that less than five percent had any kind of policy on trigger warnings at all and none required them. They’re simply devices used by individual professors as a courtesy to students.
As for the chilling effect on material in classes, I see that as professors being forced to reflect on the material they’re covering. That’s a good thing. It happened to me with one of the poems I taught in a class at Toronto, Aphra Behn’s “The Disappointment.” It depicts a sexual encounter between a man and a woman that is traditionally interpreted as consensual, but which can easily be read as a rape. I didn’t stop teaching it, but I did alter the way I taught it to acknowledge (and warn) that it might be disturbing to some and, perhaps more importantly, to open up a new way to look at the poem.
And rather than coddling students, such warnings better prepare them to receive the material. In a case where material may simply be upsetting, rather than truly triggering psychological trauma, warning the students allows them to read it it critically, rather than having their gut reaction overwhelm them and think of nothing else. “Spoilers” have been shown to improve comprehension and retention of material.
The whole trigger warning thing is a classic case of the press having an easy and familiar narrative ("those lazy and spoiled kids these days") that they can shoehorn a story into with minimal reporting.