I don’t know if I can accurately portray just how important it is for authors to include trigger warnings in their work. But let me put it like this; the feeling of revulsion and renewed trauma experienced by the triggering reader can go on for days and weeks, it essentially reopens their original wounds, cuts into their slowly healing soul and gouges out sections of their mind and sanity. It is the equivalent of mental torture, and authors need to be aware that their words have barbs.
I don’t think some authors realize just how badly their words can hurt. How deeply they can cut. The trauma of rape is something that never leaves but is slowly scarred over. Triggering causes the wound to burst open, bleeding freely and poisoning the mind until nothing but harsh images and hurt spiral out of control.
If memories are boxes in the houses of our mind, triggers cause those boxes to explode. Violently. Infecting everything else. Shrapnel cutting into the foundations and shaking the walls like an earthquake.
If you do not trigger warning your work, you are culpable for inflicting mental violence upon your unsuspecting readers. Trigger warnings give your reader the chance to say no, the chance to keep their stability and wits. The chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be inflicted with said violence. Not warning them is akin to sending them into a mine field and saying its a valley of flowers. It is a violation and rape of the mind. I don’t think I can put this strongly enough.
If you do not trigger warning your work and you write about things like rape, violence, incest, etc – you are committing mind rape against some of your readers. You are inflicting pain and trauma. You are committing violence.
There’s always the argument that ‘if you don’t like it, don’t read it’ but if you don’t put the bloody warning at the beginning, how is the reader to know that you are suddenly going to trigger them into hysteria? By the time they realize what the hell is going on, its already too late.
I am not suggesting that people stop writing about these topics, I am fully supportive of writing as a way to explore hard concepts and themes. I am merely suggesting that if you are going to explore these themes, you need to warn your readers. “Here there be Dragons”
If you use AO3 to post your work, there is a handy dandy archive warning function that allows you to tag for triggers like rape and graphic violence. Use it.