To keep Fort usable for everyone, all of us have to stick to the following
You can only be on Fort if you're legally over 16yo, have been abused, are here to talk of coping with the impact of this trauma, accept our terms of service, and are able and willing to follow these guidelines. No research, soliciting donations, or advertising anything (products, services, blogs, e-books, conferences, etc.). We can't discuss problems with your romantic relationships, or issues of your partner, abuser, child, friend, ex, etc. If you're here to talk of yourself, but our guidelines just don't sound like a good match - check out other sites, there are plenty of great survivor communities on the net, no one site fits everyone.
Please don't expect counseling. If you need advice, one on one help, or someone to focus on addressing your needs - you're looking for a trained volunteer. We don't have those on Fort, we are just a bunch of anonymous strangers (of various ages, intelligence, and mental health) sharing common experiences. What you read on Fort can be helpful, validating, infuriating, inspirational, ridiculous, naive, funny, insightful, or boring - depending on the day. Forum threads and chat conversations are focused on mutually interesting topics that everyone benefits from, rather than on "supporting" someone specific. Most of us genuinely care, but we are not a hotline, a counseling service, or a twelve-step program.
Just talk of yourself. Abuse robbed us of the basic right to think with our own heads, feel with our own hearts, make our own choices, and take responsibility for our own actions. We're trying to regain this freedom, so please don't tell (advise, suggest, encourage) us what to do, think, or feel all over again. Just talk of yourself - we feel survivors owe this much honesty to each other. When all of us share our true experiences, genuine feelings, and honest thoughts on the topic being discussed, everyone can find something that clicks for them, from the person who brought up the topic to those who'll join Fort ten years from now.
Let others talk too. Everyone has the right to participate in any abuse-related conversation that is interesting to them. There's room for all of us; diversity of thoughts, feelings, and experiences is what makes support groups helpful. Of course, if you bump into something that you feel just isn't OK - please alert mods; every post, PM, and visitor message has a "report" button on the bottom left. Other than that - if a conversation triggers you, just hop to another room, browse other threads, or go make yourself a cup of coffee. Taking a break from an upsetting topic is a lot more constructive than demanding that others stop talking about it.
Keep things where they belong. "Trigger warnings" might work well on sites that are focused on just one type of abuse and thus all members have similar triggers - but it doesn't work on Fort where everyone has a different story: what's triggery to a rape survivor might not be triggery to a parental neglect survivor, and vice versa. Instead of using TWs, Fort is split up into sections, by topic. This way, whoever wants to talk of, say, arousal during rape - can do so without having to worry about triggering others and being vague. And whoever finds the topic too upsetting - can easily avoid it by not entering the 18+ room/folder. Forum folders and chatrooms are clearly marked - please pay attention to which room/folder you're in. We are particularly serious about these five topics: religion, RA (religious/ritual abuse), DID (dissociative identity disorder), sex (including anything to do with genitalia: erections, yeast infections, genital mutilations, etc), and SI (self inflictions, including self-injury, suicide, substance abuse, and eating disorders). Meaning - you can mention that religion helps you cope with hardships, anywhere on Fort - but you can't quote the Bible or offer prayers outside of the Spirituality forum folders.
Stay on topic. Each forum thread and chatroom conversation is focused on a topic that is interesting to more than one person, and that more than one person benefits from. Do not hijack group discussions, do not derail them with off-topic comments, and do not clutter forums by starting multiple threads on the same topic. When you just need to vent and donít want a constructive conversation - post in the Journals or Rants folders. Please don't overuse the pm/p2p functions - constant whispering in a group is distracting to the recipient and not courteous towards other members. In chat, don't interrupt the current topic - join the conversation, stay quietly waiting your turn, or leave quietly. Going in and out of the room repeatedly, hiding under chairs, sulking, pouting, updating us on what you're eating, watching, hearing, etc - is disruptive and disrespectful in a trauma support group. Stay in Light Chitchat when you can't focus or just want to socialize or talk off-topic, even if all the other rooms are empty - these rooms are reserved for serious discussions relevant to abuse or its aftermath only.
Have some decency. No porn, adult jokes, flirting, cybersex, or roleplay (boyfriend/girlfriend, mommy/baby, daddy/little girl, etc; whether sexual or not). No chatting/posting under the influence. No swearing outside of the Rants and Journals forum folders. No glorifying substance abuse, violence, self-injury, eating disorders, or any other activity that endangers yourself, others, or is illegal. You can't have any of the above and/or religious references in your nickname, avatar, profile picture, or signature - these show up on each of your posts, we have no way to avoid seeing them. Constructive discussions of abuse you've been through or problems you now have as a result of it are of course allowed, in any level of detail necessary - but please don't post novels that are gratuitously explicit.
Don't stir drama: generalized rants about not getting enough attention in chat, vague apologies to "anyone I might have hurt," floods of crying smilies in a journal followed by lashing out at the whole community for not asking what's wrong fast enough, "my littles are scared, hiding, dying of terminal illness" - if you aren't getting what you expected out of Fort, please handle it constructively: try a different approach, adjust your expectations, etc. Nobody has to respond to any question or topic that they wish to ignore for any reason or simply haven't seen yet. Please don't advertise your self-care choices either: placing someone on ignore, changing rooms in chat because of a triggery topic, blocking out PMs, leaving the site - just keep it all to yourself. Self-care is meant as a way to avoid conflict, not aggravate it.
Don't play therapist. Having been abused isn't a sign of inadequacy or weakness; we are all adults, capable of googling basic psychology. Please don't try to save, heal, sponsor, advise, judge, educate, validate, guide, empower, head-pat, patronize, evaluate, or psychoanalyze others, or use terms of endearment (hon, sweetie, babe, etc). Fort is anonymous and thus a peer-only group; if you would like to counsel abuse survivors - please volunteer at a place where your credentials can be verified.
Don't be a jerk. We all have bad days, but we've been abused enough already, let's not abuse each other further. No personal attacks. No negative commentary on people of any race, gender, age, sexual orientation, faith, mental health, level of education, employment status, etc. No gossip: anything said in private (e.g. in p2p, pm, private folders, and hosted chats) needs to stay private, don't talk of any community member behind their back, don't take chat/forum transcripts offsite, leave off-site/intersite issues at the door. Asking mods to see PMs/posts/chatlogs isn't gossip of course. Please don't harass others with PM or p2p: guidelines apply to all forms of communication available to you on Fort, if you can't say something on forums or in chat - you can't say it in PM either. The "It wasn't me, someone was using my account" excuse doesn't fly: if your account is compromised, we have no choice but to block it from accessing Fort.
Don't force us to call the police on you. Naturally, you can talk of crimes you yourself were a victim of, if you're over 18 and have a choice to press charges or not. But if, as we speak, a child is getting hurt, or you are arranging off-site contact with a minor here on Fort, exchanging numbers of your drug dealers in PM, or bragging about your plans to set the Pentagon on fire - we are obligated to contact your local authorities. Please avoid suicidal or self injury threats as well: there's a difference between saying "I'm struggling with SI urges today, do you know any good distraction techniques?" and "Hang on, I'm gonna go slit my wrists now, brb." The latter is abusive - we are forced to witness you endangering yourself, with no options to interfere. Please get 3D help if you're in an acute crisis.
Keep yourself safe. Please use common sense and good judgment - someone could be nice on Fort (just because they know they'll get banned otherwise) - but not nice outside of it. If you really want to share your off-site contact information with your Fort friend - please do so in private, and never pressure anyone to share theirs. If someone is making you uncomfortable with personal questions, unloading TMI on you under the disguise of needing support, threatening, blackmailing, or harassing you - put them on ignore and alert mods, chances are they are doing it to others too. Trapping the victim by making them fear the very people who could help is a common tactic of perpetrators - this is an abuse site, we know how abuse works, and you won't be in trouble, even if someone says otherwise.
We're a DID-friendly site, as long as DID is defined as a mental health condition - not a form of roleplay, creative self-expression, a supernatural concept, or an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. Alters are treated as equal members of our community - they have to follow the same guidelines, aren't discriminated against, but get no preferential treatment either. The DID room and folder are there to discuss living and coping with dissociative symptoms, not to update the community on how your alters are doing. If they want to share with us - they are welcome to do so themselves, speaking in first person singular, and placing their topic in whichever chatroom or forum folder is applicable. They can have their own accounts, share one with the host, or with each other, or whatever other arrangement they like. Accounts that are used by both littles and grownups at once don't get "keys" (see below), so if your little wants access to Youth Chat - they will need their own account, in good standing, and actively used.
Getting Keys. Two chatrooms (where weekly hosted chats are held), six forum folders (Journals, My Strength My Story, Sexuality, RA, DID Youth, Got Keys), and the p2p function in chat are locked from newbies, troublemakers, and lurkers. We don't do cliques, but Fort registration is open to everyone, our guidelines differ from many survivor sites, and people need time to figure out the ropes before we can trust them with access to private folders. Therefore, one can request keys after actively posting on forums for 30 days. If you used to have keys but lost them due to inactivity (which happens after about 3 months of no posting, privacy issue) - just participate on forums for a month to get reacquainted with the Fort community (including all the new folks that joined us while you were gone) and request your keys again.
If you need a moderator. Mods aren't trauma counselors, conflict mediators, customer service reps, or power-tripping bullies. We are abuse survivors, just like you, using Fort for our own abuse-related issues, but we know site guidelines, software, and contents, so if something is bothering you, making it hard to use Fort - feel free to holler for help, our mod team should be able to brainstorm a solution. Just post in the Speak To Mods folder, nobody will see that thread but you and mods/admins. You can also contact the admins (but the response will take longer because mods have no access to the admin email).
If you messed up - it's probably no biggie. Weíre all here to focus on trauma recovery, not to obsess about the occasional misstep. Boundaries are necessary to keep the site usable for everyone, but they shouldn't be causing more stress than abuse did. Most people on Fort are reasonable adults who aren't deliberately stepping on others' toes, so most of the time mods just fix the issue and move on. If itís more than a minor slip-up and we need you to stop doing something - we'll just ask you to. If you're confused or have questions about it, or want input from other mods/admins, you can post in Speak to Mods. Minor messups aren't something we hold grudges about or count strikes for. If we ask you to stop and you do, that's that.
Moderation or tempban - is what happens when you aren't stopping but we feel bad banning. Fort is a mental health site, some people struggle understanding "no" more than others. We're on your side, but we need to keep Fort safe too. Tempban means you can't access forums/chat for a period of time (usually two weeks). Moderation means you lose access to chat, PMs, visitor messages, and private forums, and all of your posts are screened by a moderator before going live - but you can still participate on forums, and once we see that youíve figured out the boundaries, we'll lift your moderation. For some people it takes a week, for others two - but it needs to happen within a month; we feel for you, but we can't be screening your posts forever.
Ban - is what happens when you just won't stop. Everyone is here because they've been hurt and need support, Fort is not limited to happy and healthy people, so we try to make it work if at all possible, especially since moderation prevents troublesome people from causing any harm to the community. But we do ban if the whole mod team feels the situation is hopeless, we just can't trust you to be on site. Sometimes it's chronic inability to follow guidelines - endless PMs, moderations, tempbans - with no light at the end of the tunnel. Other times it's one outrageous thing that just can't possibly be reconciled. Our average ban rate is about 1.5% - the chances of getting kicked out of Fort are slim unless one is determined to make it happen. The no gossip rule applies to moderators too, so we don't discuss reasons behind bans with the community.
Fort Refuge is all of us - members, visitors, admins, and mods. We are a diverse group of people from all over the world, of all ages, genders, cultures, and abuse histories. All of us have been hurt, but we refuse to continue the cycle by hurting others - we are friendly, honest, and we genuinely care. Some of us are here for years, others - only for a visit, but each of us shapes this community. Thank you, and hope to see you around!
~ Mark Twain
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