Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Let's Talk About Trigger Warnings

This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s about trigger warnings. When are they appropriate? And who decides what content is controversial or upsetting?
I started thinking a great deal about trigger warnings when I released Sweet Sorrow a couple of weeks ago. For a while, I was on the fence about adding a trigger warning, but I finally came to the conclusion that although the book isn’t graphic, I should give readers an opportunity to make an informed decision before reading.
I’ve used trigger warnings in the past. I used one with The Fifth Circle because that book deals with sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and mental illness. There are some graphic, disturbing scenes and I felt that it would be important to add a trigger warning for those who are dealing with their own issues and are trying to avoid books that contain such subject matter.
I understand it isn’t possible to put trigger warnings on everything, nor is it possible to list every conceivable trigger. I don’t think trigger warnings should be mandatory, but as an independent author who has control over my book blurb, I would like to help readers avoid an acute panic attack if I possibly can. After all, I don’t want to tread on someone’s recovery when, for me, it’s as simple as adding a sentence at the end of the blurb.
Trigger warnings aren’t about avoiding hurt feelings or preventing offense. I use trigger warnings to let readers know when there is content depicting abuse or violence, but I’m sure there’s other subject matter in my books readers might find offensive. Some people might be offended by the interracial romance in one of my books. Or they might be offended by the foul language in another. Like I said, this isn’t about preventing readers from being offended. I use trigger warnings to help readers who might be struggling with PTSD and anxiety resulting from abuse or sexual assault. Other authors might choose to identity other triggers. And, yes, other authors might choose not to use trigger warnings at all.
I would really like to have a thoughtful discussion about the use of trigger warnings. I’d love to hear your opinion; however, please don’t leave comments about how our society is sissified and how when we were kids, bullying built character, and parents beat their kids for their own good, and yada yada. Please be sensitive. There are some people dealing with truly horrific trauma, and I don’t want to make light of their pain. “Get over it and move on” is not helpful advice.
What do you think? Are there any authors out there who have added trigger warnings to your book descriptions? As readers, do you find trigger warnings helpful? When are they necessary? Are they necessary at all?

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