Is this a safe space?
All support groups want their members to feel safe and comfortable. However, everyone's idea of safety is different. Some sites require trigger warnings, others ban you for having BPD even if you aren't causing any harm, yet others don't allow you to put people on ignore because that would hurt their feelings. A few years ago a 62yo university professor got told by a 16yo newbie "aww dont obsess 'bout it hun" - was it supportive or disrespectful? Where's the line between being insensitive and having to walk on eggshells? Is it ok to speak your mind if others disagree? Is it always your fault if someone felt hurt by your words? Answers to these questions are what makes support groups different from each other, and what people are looking for when they ask if this is a safe space. Rather than offering you cliche reassurances, we'll tell you straight what the policies are, so you can decide for yourself if our arrangement sounds safe to you or not.
Fort is paid for and run by volunteers, so we have no political or religious affiliations. Our community consists of men and women, young and old, straight and gay, Christians and Pagans, republicans and democrats, feminists and men's rights activists, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, etc, etc, etc. We're able to coexist peacefully because we don't use Fort as a platform to advocate for our causes. Instead, we focus on the one thing we all have in common: recovery from the trauma of abuse we suffered.
The scope of topics discussed is limited to our personal experiences with abuse and its aftermath: what we tried doing, how it worked out for us, what we wish we did differently, what we've read on the subject, etc. For example, you could say "I tried hypnosis, it felt weird and gave me false memories; here's a link to a study that suggests it's a common issue." If someone feels triggered, hurt, offended, invalidated, etc by such a statement - that's not your problem. However, you can't say "you should/shouldn't try hypnosis," because that would be telling others what to do, and we don't allow that. You also can't say "you're an idiot", because that would be off topic: we're discussing hypnosis, not each other's IQ.
There are triggery topics because talking of them is the purpose of Fort. You can't tell others to drop the topic that triggers you, but you can choose which topics to browse and which to avoid. For example, if you're triggered by the topic of self injury - don't open the "self injury" folder and chatroom. If you bumped into a self injury discussion outside of self-injury folder/chatroom - press "alert mods" button, mods will move this discussion so that others won't be unpleasantly surprised by it like you were.
Conversations belong to the community rather than original posters, and are focused on mutually interesting topics rather than on someone's personal needs and wants. You can ignore what you're reading, take it into consideration, or share a different perspective on the same issue, and so can everyone else. You can't complain that someone's perspective invalidated yours because they aren't here to validate you; they are speaking about their life, and have as much right to do so as anyone else. Sometimes what you read will be validating, other times it won't.
We believe that the best way to empower abuse survivors is to stop patronizing them. We don't tell anyone who they are and what they should do with their lives because we respect each other's right to decide these things for themselves. We let each other know that we care by reading what someone writes, asking them questions, and sharing our experiences with the topic they raised. Condescending statements (e.g. "good job on voicing your feelings, sweetie!") and baseless assumptions (e.g. "you're a strong woman, you can do it!") make us cringe. The community is anonymous, and such "empowerment" from a total stranger comes across as arrogance rather than support.
We don't have to agree with or like each other, in order to use the site. However, each of us is an abuse survivor, who came here to talk of painful and sensitive issues, and deserves some minimal respect. If you disagree with what you're reading - share a different perspective. If someone is bothering you - talk to the mods. If you want to bother someone - put them on ignore instead, or take a break from the site till you're calmer. Gossip (including criticism, venting, seeking advice on interpersonal problems, and safety concerns voiced to anyone other than mods) results in an instant ban without a warning.
Mods know your email address, IP, and date of birth; the rest of the community only knows what you chose to share. You can say as much or as little as you want to, are free to ignore any topic, question, or person that you feel like ignoring, or take a break from the site for as long as you want to. Membership doesn't expire and you can come back tomorrow, next week, or next year. You don't have to announce or explain these decisions, but you can be a good samaritan and alert mods if you bump into harassment, bullying, or any other troublesome behavior.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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