About Us

I think the most profound thing about being here is the eagerness I have gathered to work through my issues, finding ways to do this and sharing my own ideas sometimes.

Fort Refuge is an online community of abuse survivors: the place where we come together and try to make sense of the trauma we've been through, the aftermath it left us with, and our coping with and recovery from both. Fort was founded by Lala on February 29th, 2008, and has been growing and evolving ever since, as thousands of survivors contribute to the project, each in their own way. The community is anonymous, doesn't solicit or accept payments, donations, or grants, and has no political, religious, or any other agenda.

Fort membership gives access to private, survivors-only forums and chatrooms, where you can speak of hard subjects freely and honestly, without walking on eggshells for fear of judgment, lectures, or gossip. Membership is offered to any abuse survivor over 16yo, no matter what gender, religion, sexual orientation, political views, psych dx, abuse history, or anything else; the only condition is willingness to follow our guidelines. Diversity of experiences paired with strong and clear boundaries makes our conversations interesting, allows us to learn from each other, and offers a smooth transition from isolation to making friends in the "real world". Knowing that you aren't alone, interacting with people who get what it's like, genuinely care, and yet don't disrespect you - is priceless for abuse survivors, and we are proud to be a part of this project.

Aside from members-only areas, we also host quite a few resources that are open to the public. Our library consists of content submitted by Fort members and visitors, and includes info pages, how-to's, personal memoirs, and other abuse-related materials. We have a large collection of full-length documentary films about abuse and mental health, a Memorial Wall with hundreds of photos and stories of people who died through abuse, a bunch of guided imagery mp3s and relaxation videos, a bookstore, and a solid list of hotlines for those in crisis, organized by topic and by country. Our Public Forum allows our guest visitors to interact with us and with each other on any abuse-related topic. Those wishing to support our cause and raise awareness about abuse and mental health are welcome to embed our widgets on their website or blog.

To get a feel for our community you can browse our poetry, art, things we talk about in our weekly hosted chats, or see what people say about us. Some of us have been around for years and still log in daily, others healed from their trauma and only step by once in a while to say hey to old friends, yet others just got here and are checking out the place. Fort Refuge would not be possible without our mod team, our community, and each of our members and visitors. We warmly thank you for being here with us, and hope to see you around!

How can I help Fort?
We don't solicit or accept monetary donations, but you can do any or all of the following:
  • Participate: Your perspective is what everyone here is looking for, the more diverse input there is - the more interesting and helpful the site is for everyone. Just share your thoughts on whatever topic you have experience with and care to comment on, best thing you can offer really. Post on forums, either as a guest or as a member. Tell your story, add to the Memorial Wall, send us your poetry or art. Suggest links for any of our pages, let us know about broken links or typos, alert mods to problems on site, offer suggestions, give feedback - help us grow and improve, we can't do it without you.
  • Moderate. If you've been participating in our community for a while and have time/desire to volunteer keeping things tidy - check out this page about modding.
  • Spread the word. If you found Fort useful - your friends might find it useful too, and chances are a quarter of them have been or will be abused at some point in their lifetime. Lower these chances, break the taboo, and post a link to an abuse site on your profile/blog - it's what helps eliminate stigma and prevent abuse.

Fort Refuge was founded by Lala on February 29th, 2008 and is an online community of abuse survivors. Abuse of any kind (child abuse, rape, domestic violence, religious abuse, etc) is a painful, confusing, and very isolating experience, so it helps us to come together and talk of this trauma, the aftermath it left us with, and our coping with and recovery from both. Knowing that we aren't alone, belonging in a group of people who get what it's like and who genuinely care - is priceless for abuse survivors, and we are proud of being a part of this project. Some of us have been around for years and still log in daily, others healed from their trauma and don't need an abuse support group anymore but step by sometimes to say hey to old friends - yet others have just joined and are checking out the place. We have a constantly growing library of various abuse/aftermath related materials (self-help articles, survivor stories, quizzes, guided imagery mp3, bookstore, cookbook, memorial wall, etc) that is open to public, and a members-only area that includes 60 forum folders, 7 chatrooms, 3 weekly hosted chats, and a few extras like personal journals or dozens of social groups. There are 7,000+ registered members total, making about 150-200 new posts per day, with 20-30 of us on forums/chat at any time. Membership is free, anonymous, and offered to anyone who has been abused, needs to talk about it, is over 16yo, and accepts our terms of service and guidelines. To get a feel for our community you can browse our poetry, art, things we talk about in our weekly hosted chats, or check out what people say about us.

We're a diverse and friendly group, got folks from all walks of life, so you're likely to find a few people who would relate even to the most unusual issue, but we are a strictly peer group: everyone at Fort (including moderators) is a survivor, working on their recovery from abuse aftermath and speaking from personal perspective only. There are no counselors, sponsors, mentors, or listeners, and none of us provide crisis interventions, therapy, referrals, legal services, medical advice, relationship counseling, or housing or financial assistance.

There are many abuse sites on the web, each has a slightly different idea of what makes a safe and supportive community, and thus different boundaries. At Fort, we like to keep things real: having been abused is not a sign of inadequacy, weakness, or perpetual misery, so we don't patronize each other under the disguise of advice, validation, or empowerment. Condescending statements like "good job on voicing your feelings!", or "don't stress about it, hon," - while popular on other abuse sites - make us cringe. We view Fort as a group of smart, capable adults with similar experiences that caused similar consequences, discussing mutually interesting topics in a positive atmosphere of basic honesty and respect. As an anonymous stranger of unclear age, education, and mental health status, I can't tell you who you are or what you should do, think, or feel - if only because you'll be the one stuck with the consequences lol - but I can share how I approach the issue you brought up. If what I'm doing makes sense to you - you can try it too. If it doesnt - 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. 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.

We also respect everyone's right to disengage from interactions that aren't comfortable, productive, or fun. We recognize that abuse often causes various mental health problems, and it's the unhappy and unhealthy people who need support the most, but walking on eggshells and responding to everything we read with unconditional and unlimited attention/validation isn't support: it feels artificial, encourages unhealthy and disruptive behaviors, and just isn't fair to others. All of us are here because we were abused and need a safe, sane environment to talk of our recovery from the trauma, free of disruptions like "your smiley hurt my feelings, explain yourself or else I'm committing seppuku." Thus, personal attacks, gossip, and bullying are not tolerated. Forum folders and chatrooms are organized by topic and clearly marked, so you can easily avoid heavy material. Daily updates on recent endeavours of "borderline narcissistic" relatives are regarded as off-topic and get shut down: we care about you, not your mother-in-law. Pointless ranting and venting is allowed, but traditionally is placed in our journals, as a courtesy to the community. At Fort, you don't owe anyone attention, validation, or explanation, don't have to listen to or argue with people you don't know and don't care to know, and are welcome to forward all the hassles to mods. This way, you don't feel obligated to "support" anyone against your will or better judgment, and can trust that the responses you get from the group are genuine and honest.

Fort has been active for seven years, and is constantly growing and evolving as thousands of survivors contribute to the project, each in their own way. We don't solicit or accept monetary donations, but if you'd like to contribute, you can spread the word by linking to us and/or following us on social networks, add your voice to our resources library, or volunteer any other talents you have (you'd be surprised at the variety of skills we have use for). If you've been a Fort member for a while, you can also see if you'd be interested in modding.

Fort Refuge would not be possible without our crew of admins, mods, and staff. Most importantly, Fort Refuge would not be possible without you, and we warmly thank you for being here with us!

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt