Sensitive and Triggering Content
Here at the WC@MSU, we are a variety of people coming together as we work with writers. Our consultants have a variety of experiences, identities, and positionalities that they bring to their work. To allow for the WC@MSU to be a space where we can all engage with each other to the best of our abilities, we ask clients to provide content warnings related to sensitive or triggering content.
What is sensitive or triggering content?
This definition will be different for everyone, and even the same person can experience the same content differently at different times. With those considerations in mind, sensitive or triggering content are topics, depictions, and discussions that can evoke heightened negative emotions, re-traumatization, and/or secondary trauma for readers.
What is a content warning? Why do I need to provide one?
Content warnings are short, informational descriptions about sensitive/triggering content. These warnings allow for a reader to know what types of topics, depictions, and discussions will happen within a session or writing. They allow for the consultant to prepare and consent to participate (however, at any time, a consultant may end an appointment if they are no longer able to engage to the best of their ability).
You can add them for your session before the written text or within the appointment form. An example of a content warning on the appointment form and top of the writing could look like: “This writing contains references to [topics]. It also has depictions of [violent themes].”
As an important note: As writing center consultants, we must report the following information to other University offices (including the Department of Police and Public Safety) if you share it with us: (1) Suspected child abuse/neglect, even if this maltreatment happened when you were a child; (2) Allegations of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, or sexual harassment; and (3) Credible threats of harm to oneself or to others. These reports may prompt contact from a campus official who will want to talk with you about the incident that you have shared. In almost all cases, it will be your decision whether you wish to speak with them. If you would like to talk about these events in a more confidential setting, there are many confidential resources on campus.
What topics, depictions, and discussions does this include?
The topics below are by no means fully inclusive, nor can we predict all the topics that may make someone unable to engage in a writing session, but it is a starting point:
- Abuse (physical, emotional, cultural, psychological, economic)
- Anger Issues/Manipulation/Toxic relationships
- Animal cruelty or animal death
- Child abuse/pedophilia/incest
- Human Trafficking
- Kidnapping and abduction
- Murder, Death Threats, Poisoning
- Police Brutality
- Sexual Assault
- War, bombs, genocide, executions
- Weapons, gunshots, school shootings
- Ableism and ableist slurs
- Eating disorders
- Mental illnesses (descriptions/allusions to)
- Suicide/suicidal ideation
Bodily and Medical
- Amnesia/Memory Loss
- Blood, Gore, Graphic Injuries
- Body hatred and fat phobia
- Death or dying
- Pornographic content/Sex
- Hateful language directed at religious groups (e.g., Islamophobia, antisemitism)
- Homophobia and heterosexism
- Racism and racial slurs
- Sexism and misogyny
- Sexual Jokes
- Toxic Masculinity
- Transphobia and trans misogyny
- Car Accidents
- Drugs and Pills
Where can I learn more about content warnings?
- The Mail contribution from Margaret Price from the New Yorker
- “An Introduction to Content Warnings and Trigger Warnings” from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan
- “Your Guide to Content Warnings: When and How to Include One in Your Book” by Kaelyn Barron from TK Publishing