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New at Fort?

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 of yourself if our arrangement sounds safe to you or not.

Diversity

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.

Free speech

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.

Triggers

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.

Validation

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.

Empowerment

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.

Gossip

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 interpersonal advice, and "safety" concerns) results in an instant ban without a warning.

Anonymity

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.

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 doesn't discriminate, 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?), but I can share how I handle the issue you brought up or what I've read on the subject. 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. 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. 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 that they have full control of it. If you don't have control over what happens to you, please contact your local authorities for help, we are a peer support group, not a hotline.

Common questions:

Basics
Does it cost anything to be a member, is the site moderated, can I join if I'm gay/Muslim/man/etc
  • 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.
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.


When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.
~ Walt Disney
This page was last updated on November 24th, 2017
© 2008-2017 Fort Refuge. Please don't reproduce without permission.