Sunday, April 17, 2011

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: The 13th Step, Sexual Abuse in 12 Step Programs

"Same shit, verbatim" my friend Miranda says, and it's the truth.

It's one of those ongoing problems that just doesn't seem to want to go away. There are a lot of descriptions for it: sexual harassment, predatory behavior, sex addiction, etc., etc. It's nothing new, and never pretty, but there is something particularly despicable about it when it goes on in places we associate with safety. like churches and schools.

And 12th Step programs, where it's known as the 13th Step.

There are a million bad recovery jokes about it, but sadly, the issue itself is not funny. This week I have heard from three females, two adults and one 16 year old girl, all of whom had been subjected to sexual harassment at Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

I have heard about a male who asks for phone numbers, then takes a list intended for females and begins to mass text the women, saying he needs someone to talk to. He doesn't even have the imagination to vary the message.

As my friend says, "Same shit, verbatim."

Invariably someone says that it isn't just a male-harasses-female issue, but to be honest, I could count the number of female-harassing-males incidents I have encountered on one hand and have fingers left over.

So let's be clear: issues of sexual trauma and abuse abound in 12 Step programs. Predatory behavior is always destructive, in this setting, it downright lethal. Everyone deserves a chance to recover from addiction, and not to be driven away from a source of help and comfort by sexual harassment and abuse.

I took the Roman Catholic Church, of which I used to be a devout member, sternly to task for ignoring, aiding and abetting sexual abuse.

I will do the same to the 12 Step programs, which I love with all my heart. I refuse to be part of covering up sexually predatory behavior because of "anonymity" any more that I would condone it under the guise of "the greater good" in the church. If you engage in predatory behaviors in N.A. and A.A or any other 12 Step program, as far as I am concerned, you have forfeited your right to anonymity, and I will deal with you as I would any other sexual predator.

I will not let you destroy lives in a program that exists to save them.

I will not let you kill my program.

I sincerely hope I am not the only recovering person who feels this way.

(anyone who has survived 12 Step Sexual Abuse, or is being abused, contact Ken Williams in complete confidence at, or call or text Ken Williams' Recovery at 484 431 2931)

Saturday, April 16, 2011