It happened while Danielle Leong was watching “Sons of Anarchy” — a gang rape scene that would be hard for most people to watch. But for Leong, a survivor of sexual assault, the violence sent her into a panic — three days of flashbacks and panic attacks — much of which she doesn’t remember now.
The experience left her with a thought she couldn’t shake: What if she had known she was going to be triggered?
So Leong, a software developer, created an app to give people who live with post-traumatic stress disorder the power to know. It’s called Feerless, and it sends trigger warnings to people watching Netflix to make video-streaming a safer place for all. It was originally created as a project for Coding Dojo, a coding bootcamp, and was made available to the public on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
How it works is simple: Once you’ve downloaded the app on your computer, it becomes an extension on your browser. Then, you have the power to do two things. You can both mark potentially triggering scenes for others, and also receive trigger warnings yourself. A notification will pop up in the bottom-left hand corner 30 seconds before a potentially triggering scene.
Leong said the purpose is to put power in the hands of viewers. They can choose to exit out or keep watching, depending on how they feel.
“It’s about trying to get back to normal and finding that inner strength,” she told The Mighty. “Sometimes you have good days and you’ll keep watching. Sometimes you have bad days and you’re more likely to pass and watch something else. And it’s OK to have bad days.”
Right now, the app is designed for Netflix, but Leong hopes to eventually make it available across a entire range video-streaming services. She also plans on categorizing trigger warning so users can choose which kinds of notification they’d like to receive.
Her plans for Feerless’ website are even bigger. She hopes to make it what she calls the “Rotten Tomatoes of trigger warnings.” So if a sexual assault survivor, for example, looks up a show and sees it has a high rate of sexual assault triggers, he or she can choose to watch something else.
“You’re never sure if you’re going to be trigggered, you just hope you’re going to have a good day,” Leong said. “But now, there’s this tangible thing you can do. I hope this is going to help a lot of people.”
Leong wants to emphasize that her app is not just for people with PTSD. Anyone can download it and help mark triggers. The more people who chip in, the more warnings will cover a wider variety of shows.
“If you have a loved one with PTSD or if you’ve experienced trauma yourself and ever wondered, ‘What can I do?’ this is a way you can help,” Leong said