Fort Refuge - Abuse Survivors Support Group

Our Values


Abuse is a painful and confusing thing, and of course we all want to support each other, but everyone's idea of support is different. A few years ago a 62yo university professor got told by a 16yo newbie "aww dont worry 'bout it hun" - was it supportive or disrespectful? Where's the line between encouragement and patronizing? Between being insensitive and having to walk on eggshells, afraid to speak our mind? Is it ok to disagree? Is it always my fault if someone felt hurt by my words? Answers to these questions is what makes survivor communities different from each other.

At Fort we like to keep it real: being an abuse survivor isn't a sign of inadequacy, nor is it a badge of honor, proof of wisdom, or a competition to join a special secret clique. Abuse, unfortunately, affects a quarter of humanity, and survivors come in all shapes and forms. Just like any other group of people, we're bound to disagree on various topics, not all of us will like each other - and that's normal. Pretending it's not so would put everyone under enormous pressure of having to talk to people you can't stand, validate statements you don't agree with, not mention issues that bother you, or get bullied for being different (male, not Christian, too old, too young, too mentally ill, not ill enough, etc).

We believe in basic honesty and respect rather than in unconditional validation. I can't tell you who you are or what you should do, think, or feel (the site is anonymous, what if I'm a complete loon, you know?), but I can share what I've read on the subject or how I personally approach the issue you brought up. If what I'm doing makes sense to you - you can try it too. If it doesn't - you can learn from my mistake and not repeat it in your own life. If you handle the same issue differently - please share, your perspective might help someone else. After all, abuse was about taking away our choices, so we refuse to recreate this pattern and respect each other's right to make their own decisions and take responsibility for them. Condescending statements (e.g. "good job on voicing your feelings!"), opinions passed as facts (e.g. "personality disorders aren't treatable", without citing the sources), and baseless assumptions (e.g. "you can do it!") - make us cringe.

Fort membership is free, anonymous, and doesn't expire, i.e. you can use it as much or as little as you want. The only condition is acceptance of our terms of service and agreement (and ability) to follow our guidelines (link to registration is there). It's open to anyone over 16yo who believes they have been abused and wants to talk of how this experience affected them and what they plan to do about their life now, having full control of it. If you don't have control over what happens to you, please contact your local authorities for help. If you want to talk of anything other than your recovery from the trauma of abuse - feel free to use our public forum, it's open to everyone and doesn't require membership. Hope to see you around :)

Common questions:

Is this a safe place?
We get this question a lot, but everyone means something different by it, so below are the basics.
  • Membership is free; we do not ask for money and do not accept donations if offered. There are no ads, fundraisers, petitions, etc anywhere on site because we cover all expenses out of pocket; it's our contribution to abuse survivors worldwide.
  • Site is moderated and guidelines are enforced. You can help keeping Fort safe by hollering for mods if you bump into something you find inappropriate; every post and private message has an "alert mods" button.
  • There are triggery topics because talking of them is the purpose of Fort; if sweeping issues under the rug worked, nobody would need abuse sites. However, at Fort topics are split between 7 chatrooms and 60 forum folders that are clearly marked, so you can easily avoid material that upsets you.
  • There will be people whose opinion differs from yours, we are a diverse community. However, nobody is allowed to be rude or preachy to you. If someone is bothering you, just call mods. If you want to bother someone, please put them on ignore instead; we don't do cliques or bullying.
  • You're welcome at Fort no matter what gender, religion, sexual orientation, psych dx, abuse history, or anything else, as long as you follow our guidelines. We are a non-denominational, DID-friendly, LGBT-friendly group.
How private is the membership?
Fort was created and is maintained by abuse survivors just like you, and we're acutely aware of how sensitive the topics of abuse and mental health are. The very purpose of this site is to give survivors a place where it's safe to talk of these things without the usual 3D repercussions.

Private forums are private, meaning that your profile or posts (except for posts made in the public forum) do not come up on Google and people cannot search for you by your email address or name. We encourage you to stay anonymous, do not allow linking your Fort account with your social networking accounts (i.e. login with Facebook/Google+/Twitter/etc), and beg you to not use your real name or nicknames you use on other sites, when you register here. The only three things we require and record during registration are:
  • your date of birth (needed for legal reasons; for example, to know that you're over 16yo)
  • your IP address (also for legal reasons; for example, to call 911 if you brag about murdering someone)
  • your email address (needed for things like restoring lost passwords or getting email notifications if you want them).
These things are confidential, visible to mods/admins only, and are never disclosed to anyone else unless required by law (e.g. if law enforcement subpoenas our records we'll have to comply). Anything else you share on site is voluntary, and it's against our guidelines for anyone to ask you for your name, email, Skype ID, phone number, or any other identifying information. You have the option to display your date of birth (so that we can wish you a happy birthday, for example), but the default setting is to hide it.

Privacy/anonymity gets compromised when one starts posting offtopic material: pics of their pets, dates/locations of their graduations, names of the companies they work for, etc. That's what makes it possible for others to find you. Talking of abuse and its aftermath does not need to involve any identifying information. If you were raped and are now struggling with shame - the name of the town you were raped in makes no difference: it doesn't affect the degree of the shame you're feeling or the coping methods you would use to feel better. Just stick to the topic at hand, this way nobody would know who you are, and whatever you posted here won't follow you to the rest of your days, as it would with family, friends, legal representatives, or mental health professionals.

Is it like a social network?
It isn't. Three main differences explained in honest and simple terms.

A lot more rules.
The purpose of social networks is to hang out with the people you like, so the only guideline they have is to not do anything illegal. The purpose of Fort, on the contrary, is to discuss a specific topic, abuse and its aftermath, in a diverse group of people who come from all socioeconomic backgrounds and often have very little in common aside from the abuse experience. However, we aren't here just for the fun of it, and nobody can talk of such a sensitive topic as abuse on a site full of gossip, pointless arguments, personal attacks, and other such. We don't have to like everyone on site, that's unrealistic, but each of us has the same right to be here, so we can't form cliques and bully people who have come here for support, even when we don't like their personality, don't share their values, or find their beliefs and life goals bizarre. Balancing this goal with everyone's basic right to freely and openly voice their opinion on any topic raised - takes more rules than simply "don't do anything illegal".

Focus is on topics, not people.
On social networks people read your posts because they are curious how your day was. Not to sound cold, but people in abuse support groups (like Fort) have different goals and priorities. They are here to talk of abuse and its aftermath because it helps them make sense of and recover from the trauma they experienced, so if your post raises a topic they can relate to and find interesting to discuss in the context of abuse recovery - they will read it, respond to it, and add you to their friends list, because you post thought-provoking stuff. On the contrary, if you can't focus on one topic at a time and place it where it belongs, and instead are blogging/venting about random things in random threads - majority of users will soon put you on ignore, just to avoid this flood of offtopic and be able to use forums again.

Very little one-on-one interactions.
On social networks most conversations happen between two people. You know the person you're talking to, or are willing to chance it because you haven't got much to risk: worst case scenario they'll turn out to be a creep and you'll block them from contacting you again, big deal. On Fort it's different because people talk of deeply sensitive and private topics here, so if the total stranger you just met online turns out to be a creep - imagine what they can do with what you just shared with them about your abuse history. Stalking, harassment, blackmail, you name it. Especially considering that abuse often causes all sorts of mental health problems, poor boundaries, impaired communication skills, and anger management issues. Very unsafe idea to talk to anonymous strangers about abuse one-on-one. Instead, people prefer to communicate through forum threads that the whole community can participate in: this ensures that both of us don't cross the lines and venture into shady stuff.

I'm familiar with abuse sites; what else is different here?
Just a couple of oddities about Fort, compared to other abuse sites. Not too long or boring.

Topic separation
Instead of prefacing everything we say with "tw", "strong tw", "huge tw" etc - we just place topics where they belong in the first place. If I'm browsing the Rape folder, I've already been warned it's going to be about rape, so there's no need to warn me some more. It takes initial adjustment because you have to pay attention which room/folder you're in, but makes forums easier to use by saving on things like "I'm scared to post about my problem because it might be triggery - tw tw tw tw don't read if not in a safe place - my hamster passed away yesterday."

It's really OK to self-care. You don't owe anyone anything; if interacting with someone isn't comfortable, productive, or fun - you can simply ask to be left alone and have it respected. We recognize that it's the unhappy and unhealthy people who need support the most, but all of us are entitled to a safe, sane environment, free of drama like "your smiley hurt my feelings, explain yourself or else I'm committing seppuku." You can put people on ignore, not respond to anything you wish (forum post, question in chat, etc), or take a break from the site for as long as you want to, no explanation necessary.

Instant bans for gossip. This might sound harsh, but gossip isn't a misunderstanding or an emotional outburst, so there's no hope someone who started it will ever stop. If they have the time to gossip - getting support for abuse-related issues isn't their top priority, so they'll manage without us. And we'll certainly manage without them.

Is there a better site for me?
No site works for everyone; if all of the above doesn't seem like a good match for you, see if the sites below might work better.
7cups.comInstant chat with a "listener" about anything that bothers you. You can become a listener too, if you want to. Would work a lot better than Fort if you want to chat NOW, are looking to talk to people one-on-one, and like to give/receive advice. It's against our guidelines to tell anyone what to do, think, or feel - we believe in letting people make their own choices.
malesurvivor.orgWe have a lot of male members at Fort, but some things can feel too awkward to discuss in a mixed gender community. If that's how you feel - is a busy site that has men only, so you can have some privacy for those extra sensitive issues.
christiansurvivors.comOnline community for Christian survivors of any form of abuse. We recognize that faith is a powerful healing tool for many people, but Fort is a non-denominational site, many of us have had bad experiences with religion, so we limit all religious references to one forum folder only. If you like to bring up religion in most conversations (or if you're just more comfortable with people of the same faith) - might be a good solution.
pandys.orgGreat site for survivors of rape or child sexual abuse: busy community and very good resources. Guidelines differ from Fort: no DID allowed, telling others what to do is encouraged, blocking people who get on your nerves is not allowed, foul language is OK within reasonable limits; there's a forum for supporters (aka secondary survivors) too.
survivorship.orgCommunity for survivors of ritual abuse, mind control, and torture. Membership is paid, but the site has some free resources too. We have a forum folder for religious abuse, but you have to be actively participating in other forums for a month to gain access to it, and the topic is off-limit in chat. Moreover, we believe that, although abuse perps often claim to have supernatural powers or secret technologies to manipulate your mind, in reality "mind control" is just not possible.
loveshack.orgCommunity focused on relationships, including (but not limited to) abusive ones. If you don't really want to leave your partner, but just have problems with how you're being treated (e.g. s/he lies, cheats, drinks, plays computer games too much, etc) - or if you're heartbroken after a breakup and don't know if you'll ever find love again - is a good place to discuss these issues.
psychopathfree.comCommunity dedicated to discussing psychopaths/narcissists in your life: learning to spot them, guesstimating what they are thinking and why they act the way they do, finding ways to manipulate their behavior, etc. We do not believe in this at Fort, and it's against our guidelines to talk of anyone other than yourself, so if this is what you're into - would be a better match.
How can I help Fort?
Thanks for the thought! Below are the options.
  • Contribute. The value of Fort is in its content, and that's created by our community. See the list of our current projects - there's room for pretty much anything that you wish to share with other survivors: your writing, art, or poetry; books, links, youtube videos, cooking recipes, games, etc. Send it all to us, that's how Fort is growing.
  • Participate. If you see something on forums that you have a personal experience with - share it; the more diverse input there is, the more helpful forums are for everyone. That applies to guests as well: you're welcome to use our public forum as much as you wish, respond to threads with your perspective, etc.
  • Spread the word. Follow us on social networks (links on the bottom of the page), link to us from your blog, let your friends know if you've read an interesting page here.
  • We don't solicit or accept monetary donations because we don't feel it would be right to harass people who have been abused, are hurting, and have come here for support. Besides, accepting donations would put us in an awkward ethical position: it can't be done anonymously, so your privacy would be violated; moreover, community would start doubting our integrity and wonder if those who donate money get preferential treatment. We're run entirely by volunteers, so operational costs are minimal, and site owners are paying them out of pocket.
I need chat NOW
Click to see a list of sites that offer instant chat with a volunteer, 24/7, no registration. We do not have those on staff because we are a peer support group, not a hotline.
Lifeline Crisis Chat, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Alternative suicide and general crisis chatline.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) chat hotline.
Domestic Violence hotline, chatline, and plenty of info and resources.
Australian rape and DV chat line.
Christian support for suicide or any other crises.
24/7 free chat about anything you want to talk about, with someone who will listen unconditionally. No crises.

If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.
~ Winston Churchill
This page was last updated on December 24th, 2015
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