“Thirteenth-stepping” is a euphemistic term used among members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to refer to people (particularly men) who target new, more vulnerable members (typically women) for dates or sex. Previous research suggests that women frequently experience sexual harassment in AA meetings and even in chemical dependency treatment settings. The objective of this survey study is to describe the frequency of various 13th-stepping experiences in a sample of women involved in AA.
Fifty-five women, aged 17-72 years, completed an anonymous survey to describe their experiences with 13th-stepping by men in AA. Results showed that at least 50% of the participants had at least occasionally experienced seven of the thirteen 13th-stepping behaviors listed in the survey. Also, compared to women who had never attended a female-only AA group, women who had attended such groups reported more 13th-stepping experiences from their attendance at coed groups. Two of the study participants volunteered that men they met in AA had raped them.
It is important that chemical dependency treatment providers be aware of 13th-stepping in AA, particularly when treating women. Especially vulnerable women, such as those with histories of sexual abuse, should be referred to female-only groups when possible. When women’s groups are unavailable, women should be adequately prepared to protect themselves from 13th-stepping.