Trigger Warning 101

by Sarah Roberts

You may have seen the trigger warnings on articles posted at this blog, or on your Facebook newsfeed. Not sure what trigger warnings are?

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Triggers warnings are an explicit statement that a following piece of media contains descriptions, language, or imagery that some may find disturbing, or ‘triggering’; i.e. likely to induce an extremely emotionally distressing response such as posttraumatic flashbacks, anxiety, or a strong urge to self-harm. They are a vitally important part of maintaining safe and inclusive spaces in our communities.  They empower survivors to decide if and how they want to engage with material.

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Trigger warning should be placed at the beginning of potentially triggering media.  The usual format is the term “trigger warning” followed by a broad description of the triggering nature of the content.  Avoid warnings with too much description because you don’t want the warning itself to be triggering.  For example: “Trigger Warning: Graphic descriptions of sexual violence.”  It is also a good idea to bold or change the font color of the text in order to make sure it is noticed. Keep in mind that it is extremely important to respect autonomy; avoid prescribing self-care behaviors or actions to people in your trigger warning.

Trigger warnings should always be used for content that includes:

  • Graphic descriptions of or extensive discussion of abuse, incest, torture, or violence
  • Graphic descriptions of or extensive discussion of self-harming behavior such as suicide, self-inflicted injuries, or disordered eating
  • Depictions, especially lengthy or psychologically realistic ones, of the mental state of someone suffering abuse or engaging in self-harming.
  • Depiction or discussion of discriminatory attitudes or actions, including but not limited to: hate crimes, hate speech/ slurs, trans* degendering/ anti-trans* views of bodies, and dismissal of lived oppression, marginalization, illness or differences.
  • Descriptions/pictures of war violence.
  • Talk of drug abuse (legal, illegal or psychiatric)
  • Kidnapping (forceful deprivation of/disregard for personal autonomy)

This list is by no means exhaustive.  You should post warnings for anything you feel could be triggering to another person; it is better to be safe than sorry.

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This year at the WCC, we’ve made the decision to include trigger warnings in our blogs, Femtastics Fridays, and events.  We will be warning for all topics mentioned above on our social media forums.  We also intend to engage with speakers about placing content warnings prior to/ during their events.  As a staff, we feel that it is absolutely vital to make the WCC a place that feels available to all people and believe trigger warnings are indispensable to that.

Trigger warnings take very little time but have a huge impact on well-being and the establishment of this campus as a safe space.  It is an important aspect of allowing all people the space to feel respected and secure.  When we do this, we hold to the value of collective empowerment and inclusivity, which is pretty **femtastic**.

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P.S. Feel free to comment or email us at wccstaff@gmail.com with TWs you feel should have been included.

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