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We Need To Talk About What Sansa Stark Said About Her Trauma On "Game Of Thrones"

"For the millionth time, rape and abuse of women isn't just character development or a way to show a female character has matured."

Posted on May 6, 2019, at 4:47 p.m. ET

This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4.

HBO / BuzzFeed

(As always, proceed with caution!)

A long-awaited reunion happened in this episode.


Sansa Stark, aka the Lady of Winterfell, was reunited with Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, after six seasons.

The characters hadn't seen each other since the Battle of the Blackwater in Season 2, when the Hound fled King's Landing — but not before offering to take Sansa with him and deliver her home.

It's been A WHILE, so here's that scene:

When Sansa sits down, the Hound remarks that she used to be too afraid to look at him, and she counters with the valid point that she's seen a lot worse since then.

The Hound then makes a crude remark about her having been "broken in hard," but she fires back by telling him about how she killed Ramsay by feeding him to HIS hounds. They then smile at each other — it's a somewhat nice moment!

Using his old nickname for Sansa, the Hound tells her how different she is.

HBO / Via

After this, however, he appears to show genuine remorse that he wasn't able to protect her from the horrors she faced since that moment during the Battle of the Blackwater.

"None of it would have happened if you had left King's Landing with me," he tells her. "No Littlefinger, no Ramsay, none of it."

And then, Sansa takes his hand and delivers this line.

HBO / Via

As a reminder, when Sansa says "Littlefinger, Ramsay, and all the rest" that happened since she last saw the Hound, she's referring to a pretty extensive list of shit that includes: two more seasons of Joffrey tormenting her; being forced to marry a man whose family was responsible for the death of her direwolf, father, mother, and brother; being forced to marry a sadist who raped and tortured her; and being the object of an older dude's creepy obsession and witness to his many murders, including the death of her aunt.

But Sansa seems to be particularly referencing her sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the hands of Ramsay Bolton — a storyline that's not present in the Song of Ice and Fire books and has generated A LOT of outrage since the episode in the show's fifth season where she is raped on her wedding night aired.

Viewers quickly pointed out that, uh, that seems like a pretty problematic thing for an abuse survivor to say.

Remember when Sansa was like "you know, it actually was a good thing I got raped and otherwise assaulted and abused all those times, bc now I am a Strong Woman." Interesting. #GameofThrones

I mean, feel free to have your own interpretations on this scene, but don’t you dare try to convince me to change mine. Seeing it happen to Sansa in the first place was triggering enough as it is.

Sansa didn't need to go through all that trauma to become a powerful, intelligent person, and the show implying she did is just...ugh

Is this a reality for a lot of women? Yes. But it’s unfortunate. It’s a coping mechanism, not a favorable circumstance the way it was written into that scene. That particular instance just left a bad taste in my mouth idk man idkkkkkkkk

“she’s not the girl you grew up with. not after what she’s seen. not after what they’ve done to her.” wow dany is acknowledging sansa’s trauma better than the show ever did

This is far from the first time the show and its male writers have been called out for using sexual violence as a plot device.

I still love #GameofThrones but this show proves over and over again they have no idea how to write about rape. Sansa just shrugging off what happened to her by saying she's stronger for it?? do any women write for this show, or...?

dan & david making sansa say that she needed to be abused in order to grow up is such bullshit,, a woman doesnt have to experience rape to develop as a character get out of here with your pathetic attempts to excuse your unnecessary violence against women

Brienne weeping over Jamie and Sansa being thankful for all the times she got raped is all the confirmation you need that these two dudes consulted zero women about any aspect of this show

It’s several hours later and I’m still so fucking mad that D&D made Sansa say that repeated sexual trauma was the only thing that made her strong. Sansa was always strong. Trauma made her practical - and cynical. And these men are so bad at writing women. #GameofThrones

"And remember Sansa, if not for being brutally raped and beaten you never would have become the strong powerful woman you are today." Sansa: "Fuck you." Director: "Cut! Sophie, please don't ad-lib, just nod and agree."

Other viewers called the criticism unfair and argued that it was obvious what Sansa was TRYING to say.

this show hasn't exactly inspired the benefit of the doubt on this subject, but acknowledging the cumulative impact of one's life experience is a lot more reasonable and nuanced than "my trauma was good, actually"

@DavidDTSS Sansa’s not saying she’s thankful for it she’s saying without it she may not be as strong and may still rely on others more than herself. A common statement from many victims, myself included. Don’t take that sentiment away from victims by trying to put a negative light on it.

"Going through hell made me the strong person I am today" is something a lot of people who have been through traumatic events tell themselves. I think it makes sense for Sansa to say it. The problem is that it's framed not as a coping mechanism, but a true statement.

What do you think?


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.