Is this a safe place?
Of course any support group wants its members to feel comfortable and bans trolls. However, everyone's idea of safety is different. Some sites require trigger warnings, others ban members who admit suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder even if they aren't causing any harm, yet other sites don't allow you to put people on ignore because that would hurt their feeling. A few years ago a 62yo university professor lost a daughter in a car accident and 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 even 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 mean when they ask if this is a safe place.
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.
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.
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.
Just a couple of oddities about Fort, compared to other abuse sites. Not too long or boring.
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.
~ Winston Churchill
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