Question from the Fellowship (Committee Reference #2023-5):
The Conference Translation and International Outreach Committee (CTIOC) is formally requesting feedback on a new project being developed.
The committee is in the early stages of discussion on the possible production of a commercial to spread awareness about sex and love addiction internationally. This project has, in the past, been very controversial and sometimes polarizing due to differing interpretations of the Twelve Steps, Traditions, and Concepts.
The content of the commercial would be short and concise. It would mention some of the Twelve Characteristics, and it would direct those who identify to check out the FWS website for meetings in their area. The CTIOC would like to receive feedback from the CSTCC on how this outreach method aligns, or conflicts, with Twelve Steps, Traditions and Concepts.
1 Should we advertise in public at all?
SLAA does not advertise like other Fellowships due to the nature of our addiction. The reason is explained in the SLAA Basic Text at page 123:
That is, if we were to go out and proclaim our Fellowship's existence wholesale we could be overrun by vicarious thrill-seekers, contented voyeurs, and those who might be addicted, but were primarily looking for action. If we were overrun by those who were not serious about recovery, our original group purpose, which according to our traditions was to be maintained through the exercise of “group conscience,” would be irrevocably altered. With the undermining of a group conscience committed to individual recovery, we would be destroyed.
If we were really to adhere to the principle of group conscience, we had to go about “carrying the message” prudently and selectively. While S.L.A.A. could not be denied to any sex and love addict in search of recovery, we could not trump up a national manifesto or vision for S.L.A.A. at the expense of neglecting to tend to our own back yard. We could not stress getting great numbers of people to attend our meetings at the expense of diluting the quality of our message of recovery. There could be no short-cuts.
So we can be prudent and selective. Which probably means we do not launch national (or international) awareness campaigns in the media.
2 What can we advertise?
It is the Board's responsibility to guide outreach efforts of the Fellowship under the By-Laws and the CPIC was created by the Conference to “get information to the addict who still suffers”. The Suggestions for Public Outreach April 2015 on slaafws.org set out what an Intergroup or Group might do to carry the message to the sex and love addict who still suffers, while observing The Twelve Traditions of S.L.A.A. and the Recommended Guidelines for Dealing with Media.
They say they are approved by the CPIC and the Board. The Minutes of previous ABMs show the Suggestions were discussed in 2013, 2015 and 2017 and te Board agreed to review the Suggestions every 2 years with the CPIC.
At the moment they open with:
“Any group or Intergroup doing public outreach should consider Tradition 11, which states:
Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV, film, and other public media. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all fellow S.L.A.A. members.
When doing public outreach, the question often comes up “what is attraction, and what is promotion?” Each member of the Fellowship of S.L.A.A. may have different answers, so it can be difficult to get a clear understanding of the differences.
It can be tempting to label any public outreach activity as “promotion” out of fear of violating the 11th Tradition. However, we cannot attract people to the Fellowship if they do not know that S.L.A.A. exists.
At a minimum, we are allowed to tell the public that S.L.A.A. exists and it can help with problems of sex and love addiction.
3 So where can we advertise that we exist?
For a while there were plans to engage in Outdoor Advertising. Outdoor advertising is any kind of advertisement that is displayed outdoors, usually in public areas such as roadside billboards, bus stops, train stations, and other public spaces.
There was one major problem with that idea. It would be seen by children. Parents and carers would be asked “What is sex? What is sex and love addiction?”
Our advertising (if any) must avoid drawing undue attention to S.L.A.A. as a whole from the public media, the S.L.A.A. name ought never to be drawn into public controversy and we do not court publicity (see our media Guidelines)
“Prudent and selective” (targeted) options for a Commercial are:
- Conventions for treating professionals
- Hospitals and rehabs that treat sex and love addiction
- Online on pornography and dating websites
- Google Ads for people searching sex and love addiction, porn addiction and similar
- SLAA YouTube managed by the CPIC (where we specify our material is not for children)
- SLAA Service Forum managed by the CICC
- Intergroup and FWS Websites.
4 What can we show in a Commercial?
In 2011, Conference approved the CPIC Project to develop Public Service Announcements for general distribution starting with YouTube. The CPIC then reported on progress of topics.
The Board asked the CPIC in 2013 to develop video guidelines (which are in the approved Suggestions):. Public outreach can include:
Produce and post anonymous videos that share real S.L.A.A. stories of the insanity of addiction and the serenity of recovery. One way to keep the videos anonymous is to use a text-only format, such as a slideshow presentation. Below is a list of other guidelines to protect anonymity in videos. • Don't use full names or faces • Don't post the video using an account name or email address that's used to post other materials. • Don't show scenes of identifiable locations so they aren't publicly associated with sex and love addicts.
5 Who has delegated authority to approve the (1) final Commercial and (2) where the Commercial can be shown?
Groups and Intergroups are unable to take any action affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole: Tradition 4.
A Commercial would affect the reputation of SLAA in the country it is shown and probably SLAAas a whole. Therefore see the Media Guidelines 10 and 11:
10. The appropriate level of “group conscience” to be consulted in matters of media or public relations is that level which represents the geographical area of S.L.A.A. to be impacted, or affected, by the prospective publicity. Media/ public relations opportunities which would affect a larger level of S.L.A.A. Fellowship should be referred to the “group conscience” body operative at the larger level of S.L.A.A. Each level of “group conscience” within S.L.A.A. may, if it chooses, appoint a media/public relations conscience committee, responsible directly to the “group conscience” which appoints it, to serve as the “group conscience” decision making body regarding media/public relations offers, at each respective S.L.A.A. service level.
11. Any media/public relations opportunities which have an aspect to them which could potentially affect S.L.A.A. as a whole, should be referred to the “group conscience” decision-making body operative at the Fellowship-Wide level, c/o the Board of Trustees.
In practice, the Commercial would have to be created in close consultation with the Board Outreach Committee (formerly known as the Board Public Relations Committee) responsible for approval of applications to use the SLAA name in the public media.
In reading the Question, and then in reviewing the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts, there appear to be a few Traditions that are applicable.
Tradition Five states that our primary purpose it to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. A commercial on some type of public media could bring awareness of the program to people in their addiction. This is very much in alignment with our primary purpose.
Tradition Eleven provides general guidance for this situation. It suggests that we base our public relations on attraction rather than promotion when dealing with the media. But, there is nothing specific in this Tradition on the difference between attraction and promotion. However, we can look at other examples within the Fellowship for how the members currently view it.
The Fellowship Wide Services (FWS) has a website that is publicly accessible. It would be reasonable to assume that millions of people around the globe have access to the website, and that thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) have visited it.
The website contains all the S.L.A.A. literature, including the Core Documents (which are free downloads). The Core Documents include the 40 Questions for Self-Diagnosis and the Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction. Both of these documents provide detailed descriptions of our addiction. Other literature (which is available for sale) provides even more detail on our addiction. Multiple pages on the website provide detailed information on how our Fellowship works, how to find meetings, and how to join a service committee.
I am not aware of any calls from members of the Fellowship to shut down the website, to remove the Core Documents or other detailed literature from it, or to eliminate information on the Fellowship function. In fact, during my time in service within the Fellowship, I have heard many calls for more information / literature to be available on the website. Based on this, I believe it is safe to assume that the Fellowship views the website and it's contents as attraction (not promotion), and therefore not in conflict with Tradition Eleven.
The commercial suggested in the Question would, most likely, reach far fewer people than our website. It would also, again most likely, include far less information and details about our addiction / Fellowship than our website does. In applying the same standard to the commercial that the Fellowship members have applied to the website, I see no conflict with Tradition Eleven.
Lastly, and most importantly, Tradition Two states that for our group purpose the ultimate authority is a Loving God as expressed through our group conscience. Based on the strong support that our website receives for helping the addict who still suffers, I believe the group conscience of our Fellowship has been clearly expressed on this issue.
Step 12: Carry the message.
Tradition 5: Our primary purpose is to carry its message.
Tradition 11: My interpretation here is that we need to stay personally anonymous, not anonymous as a fellowship as a whole. We stay anonymous with each other in fellowship about our outside lives and we stay anonymous outside of fellowship about our membership in fellowship, particularly at the public level. But the fellowship itself is not meant to be a secret.
As we practice these principles in all areas of our lives we are instructed to “carry this message to sex and love addicts.” That suggests to me outreach is a key part of our recovery.
We are also reminded in Tradition Five that the primary purpose of all of our groups is “to carry its [their] message to the sex and love addict who still suffers.”
Our public relations policy is explained in Tradition Eleven. We use attraction rather than promotion. We absolutely need to let people — many of whom are suffering from this addiction — know that we have a solution that may be able to help them. We are not a secret society.
As long as the proposed commercial avoids personal references — no names or images — it is in alignment with our three legacies (the Steps, Traditions, and Concepts).