I have been making reference in the comments to an opinion piece in the August issue of Grapevine, which is titled: “Safe Haven, Keeping the rooms free of predation: Whose responsibility is it?” and I think it’s about time I actually put it up here. It’s not available online, and it’s rather long, so I’ll transcribe some of it.
How safe is your AA meeting? Have you ever personally not felt safe? Have you ever had someone give you a hug and walked away with an uncomfortable feeling?
I ask these questions because I view with concern the sexual predation that I’ve seen in AA meetings. I have seen it happen in all gender relationships, but my personal experience is as a woman being preyed upon by men.
I know what many of you are thinking, “Well, that’s an outside issue,” but I disagree. How can it be an outside issue if it affects my safety in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous?
She goes on to make a parallel to the Catholic Church’s sexual scandals and cover-ups, and offers her experience as a newcomer 22 years ago, saying “Imagine my surprise when what I found was much of the same barroom behavior I had just left. I was groped, received obscene phone calls, stalked, and was nearly date-raped by a member of the fellowship.”
And she points out that calling this behavior “Thirteenth Stepping” tends to play down the actual predatory nature of it, making it sound like part of the program; and she concludes:
Much of the discussion has been changing over the last decade. AA is seeing younger memebers enter its rooms, and turning a blind eye to wyat is happeneing to a miinor is very different in the eyes of the law. Like it or not, and inividual with knowledge of the behavior could be held criminally liabel.
We owe it to our members to make sure the meeting rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous are safe for everyone who enter. That means talking about this topic in our group conscience and with each other. It means leaving barroom behavior behind and treating the newcomers like they truly are the most important people in the room.
I was interested to see what the backlash to this article would be. We’ve had some women here denying that sexual predation is a problem in AA. Generally, any discussion if this is met with one of two responses. The first is, of course, that this doesn’t happen. The second is that if it does, it’s your own fault – to which I respond: If you have the presence of mind, self-esteem, self-control, and self-will to set your own boundaries, and are responsible for doing so, then why does that not also apply to your sobriety?
My latest issue of Grapevine is lost somewhere in a pile of papers, and I have yet to even take of the black plastic wrapping (thanks a lot of that discreet packaging, Grapevine. Now my mailman thinks I’m getting porn), so I don’t know if there are any responses to this piece. But, I did find one blogger’s response, in which she calls “Safe Haven” tedious.
She laments the fact that some people are jerks, but the crux of her response to the piece is this:
I found the article tedious, with all the hypothetical questions and conjecture. And somehow the idea of an AA meeting being a “Safe Haven” has never really made sense to me. Maybe in a perfect world, if there weren’t other alcoholics in various stages of recovery, it would be safe. But as it is, with sick people trying to get well, and sorry, but BAD people trying to get good, an AA meeting is not likely to be a safe haven.
Women in AA are often seen as commodities. It is a shame. It is sad. For all concerned.
But if you are to stay sober, it is best not to get mired in the “injustice” of it all. It is best to just move on. And I don’t care to speculate about “what if it happened to this person or that person? They would surely get drunk!” If a person wants to stay sober, they will find a way to do that no matter what. If a person is looking for an excuse to get drunk, any thing will do.
Of course, you have to wonder what purpose the AA program serves in supporting one’s sobriety if the only thing that makes it work is what you “will.” Further, not getting “mired in the injustice of it all,” (tedious as injustice might be) so that you can get yours, is pretty lowdown – especially considering AA’s youth recruitment drive.
This AA member can acknowledge that “women in AA are seen as commodities,” which is a big deal, and finds this a sad shame for all. But she finds it more important to just “move on” in order to focus on her “selfish program.” (I wonder if you can use that excuse to skip the 9th step.)
The plain fact is that AA is rife with predators and members who attend, on their own recognizance (well, on the advice of their lawyers), seeking to mitigate their sentencing — for all manner of crimes. The court looks favorably upon people who begin “treatment” before the judge orders them to treatment. These people have no interest beyond their own self-interest, which, as the above blogger points out, is par for the course, anyway.
It is true, that whatever group of people you choose to involve yourself in will have its share of assholes, predators, etc. But, it is not true that this is the same as “real life.” In real life, there are policies in the workplace against sexual harassment; sexual harassment is not allowed in schools; people get fired for making sexual advances on their subordinates, both in the workplace and in academic environments.
If AA encourages “denial,” and “enabling” in regard to its members’ relationship to each other and to the fellowship as a whole, then how can it claim any credibility in addressing these issues as they pertain to addiction?