For the safety of my potential readers, I have employed a more uniform labeling policy. I warn for common plot-point triggers, situations that may prove triggering due to similarities to traumas, and tones of writing that could prove triggering to some readers if they are not forewarned. I also label for squicks and phobias to the best of my ability.
This warning policy was written for my own use, so it is largely specific to my own body of work, but if another writer finds any portion of it useful themselves, they are welcome to it without seeking my permission. I do not mean to state or imply that I am advocating the use of this specific warning policy as any sort of broader standard. It certainly is a little unwieldy for general use, as I have a large body of work that is frequently triggering in ways that I suspect are less common in fandom at large.
It is not my wish to marginalize or exclude anyone by leaving out any particular trigger. There are many that quite simply do not apply to my personal collection of fanfiction. The triggers named in this policy are either extremely common triggers in fanfiction, or are triggers which I personally have had specific reason to warn for on one or more pieces of fiction.
Added 07/04/2010: This policy applies only to my fanfiction, and not to my fanvids. My not-particularly-good fanvids are all light-hearted in nature, avoid dark or even serious subjects, and use only canon source material. Should that change, a separate policy will be created, because this policy applies pretty specifically to prose.
I will always warn, or otherwise label, for content that is potentially triggery for abuse and assault survivors, trauma survivors, those with PTSD, those dealing with self-harming and/or addictive behavior issues, and others who need to take precautions in selecting reading material. This content includes, but is not limited to, the following: rape, sexual assault, "non-con" (a sometimes misleading term for fictional rape meant to imply the piece is a rape fantasy or is in some other way different from an assault), dub-con (fic where, for whatever reason, sexual activity occurs in a situation where consent might not be clear to the reader), incest, child abuse, child molestation, domestic abuse, significant verbal abuse, confinement, specific sexual kinks which may be perceived in different ways by different readers (example: bondage, knifeplay, breathplay), suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, drug use, alcohol use, character death, graphic violence, torture, and plots using potentially uncomfortable power dynamics or with cultivated feelings or tones of discomfort or helplessness.
How I warn for violence will be related to the level of violence, as well as the level and type of violence typical of the canon material for the fandom in question.
Inclusion of a type of material in the list above is not meant to state or imply that said material appears in any of my fics. Much of it does not apply. Details below.
Note: Readers with triggers are strongly advised to always click the reader-optional warnings on fics warned for tone. More on that below.
A trigger is different from a squick (I also warn for common squicks). A trigger is a piece of writing (or in the real world, a smell or a situation) that causes an abuse or assault survivor to once again feel the emotions they felt while they were being victimized. It's not the "ew, backbutton" response. It's a feeling of helplessness and fear, often so intense that the victim cannot stop reading. This problem is not rare or trivial. This is a safety issue, and failure to warn is hurtful.
The same type of emotional reaction that applies to abuse survivors also applies to other trauma-related triggers that are common in fanfiction, such as character death and various types of non-sexual violence. These things will also carry warnings on this site.
A different kind of trigger in fiction is the one involving eating disorders, self-harm, or chemical addictions, where the fictional content weakens the individual's resolve to refrain from the harmful behaviors. It is an act of kindness to help people avoid that kind of content, and these things will carry warnings on this site.
A squick (as the word is used in fandom) is something that gives a reader an unpleasant feeling, of varying levels of degree, but not on the same scale. The reader might regret reading, and have their entertainment spoiled, but they retain power over the situation and can hit the back button. Warning for squicks is a courtesy, and I will make every effort to do so.
Labels are about safety and courtesy, not about judgment or morality. I make every effort to make a distinction between warnings for traumatic content and other types of labels, and my use of warnings is not meant to state or imply judgment on the lifestyles or fantasies of any individual or group.
Any sexual activity which is joyful, loving, and most importantly consensual should not be labeled as violence, either directly or by implication, and I will endeavor to avoid that mistake. However, a number of kinks which are commonly, if not always accurately, lumped under the label BDSM, can be triggering for survivors because of similarities in tones or actions to situations of violence. Therefore, labeling for activities such as bondage does fall under the category of triggering when deciding whether to label, and when relevant, I will label.
Kinks that might be triggery include bondage, D/s (dominance and submission), knifeplay, breathplay, erotic torture, humiliation, and writing with a general tone of loss-of-control or other feeling which could mirror a feeling that a survivor could find triggering.
Content of this nature is extremely minimal on my site, but it will always be labeled. To avoid judgmental phrasing, such labels will not be referred to as warnings, so if these triggers apply to you, please read a fic's entire header for other types of content disclosure.
For a more comprehensive discussion on these topics, which goes beyond the scope of this labeling policy, as well as links to further resources on these topics, try here. (insert link to LJ post)
There are many common triggers which do not occur in any of my fanfiction. There are also a number of less common triggers which are relevant to my body of work. This is a breakdown of these topics.
These are the things I have never written about, and don't anticipate writing about, but would absolutely warn for if I did. You're definitely safe from encountering these topics in my fanfiction whether you read any warnings or not:
*References may be made to canon events of that type. They will be warned for quite specifically and they will not be explicit or graphic.
**The exclusion of this topic from my personal body of writing is not meant to convey any particular political viewpoint. I simply have not written about this topic, nor would I find it a particularly entertaining plot point to explore in a piece of fanfiction.
Basically, I prefer to write fic which strives to be happy, funny, sexy, etc. Since I don't find the above topics happy, funny, or sexy, and I avoid them. Plus, when I do write angst, I like to find ways to write it that are less common in fandom. Hence the excessive warning policy.
These are things I have written about, and which are labeled with safety warnings:
These are labels which have to do with courtesy, rather than safety:
I choose to err on the side of caution, so I encourage my readers to click on the reader-optional warning for more information before clicking the backbutton.
I write in a number of fandoms, and when labeling I will assume that the reader is familiar with the canon in question. While I am very flattered if you choose to read a piece of fiction I have written despite being unfamiliar with the show, I recommend against it, as it could lead the reader to make incorrect assumptions about the safety of the piece. This is not meant to state or imply that I will not still make every attempt to label accurately, I am simply admitting that this is an area in which human failure is more likely.
Some examples include the unhealthy canon relationship between Buffy Summers and Spike during season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vala Mal Doran's background as former host to Qetesh in Stargate SG-1, the events which occurred at Shelly Pomeroy's end-of-year party in Veronica Mars, or the experiences Max Evans had in the white room on Roswell. It's quite easy to let characters discuss or remember these things in the course of writing a fic, and then forget to label for them.
Finally, I recommend reading the full header on my fics, because information that may prove relevant to you may be located outside of the warning line. If a particular canon event troubled you, for example, the spoiler warning line is the place to look. If you don't like romantic relationships that take place between individuals in certain situations, the pairings line will have the information you need.
If you have further questions to ask before reading a particular fic, you may contact me on LJ (preferred) or via email and I will reply when I am able, or if you prefer, I recommend the LJ community ficsafezone, where volunteer readers will screen fics for those with a particular need.
If you have a suggestion on how to make a particular fic safer, please do let me know.