ABUSE ISSUES – Should we discuss issues of abuse in our meetings ?

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question:
Are discussions about abuse and trauma or surviving abuse and trauma topics within the experience, strength and hope of this fellowship?


While abuse is a very real issue for many of us in the program, this is a difficult question. I have sexual, mental and physical abuse in my story and I do mention it when I am telling my story, but it is a brief and casual mention. I cannot rely on the things which gave me a predisposition toward what was to come in my life as an excuse for what I did in my addiction. I cannot blame the other person, because that would amount to being in denial of my responsibility in my addiction. These are things which I had to deal with and release in order to truly begin to find recovery from my addiction.

In the spirit of Tradition 4, each group can decide for itself as to how much can be mentioned regarding the subject, just as it could in regard other addictions.

To take it one step further, if we are talking about discussing abuse issues and trying to solve the problems relating to abuse, then I would refer the inquirer to Tradition 10. “S.L.A.A. has no opinion on outside issues…” These issues are better dealt with in a professional setting with a counselor. To spend time discussing these issues would detract from our primary purpose “…to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers”, (Tradition 5). We are gathering together at our meetings to provide for “mutual aid in recovering from sex and love addiction…”, (Tradition 3).

These are all matters better dealt with in a clinical setting and do not belong within our realm of experience.

Since we are a group who focuses on sexual issues, I can see where the issues of abuse and trauma might be a legitimate part of our experience. However, one thing that comes to mind for me is a statement I heard a long time ago regarding what to share  in meetings. “Take your mess to your sponsor and the message to the meeting.” If a person has a positive message regarding abuse issues, I would welcome hearing that. However, I think the messy details would best be shared with a sponsor or trained professional. I do not mean to discredit these issues because I have dealt with my own and I know their significance.

Whether or not there should be a line or two in the meeting script regarding this issue brings us to Tradition 4: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole. I interpret this to mean that each meeting may take a group conscience and decide how to handle this issue. I think we must also look at Tradition 5: Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers. If a person suffered or is suffering from sexual abuse and is now a sex addict, the abuse is part of that person’s story. I do believe the abuse and trauma element is usually better handled with a therapist or treatment center, but it is still a very real part of the sex and love addict to whom we carry our message.

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Yes I think discussions about abuse and trauma or surviving abuse and trauma topics are within the experience and strength of this Fellowship.

Additionally, I think meetings are autonomous and can decide what issues they want or do not want to have opened for sharing and discussion in their individual meetings. Whereas some meetings might want to set limits – for example – about graphic and sensational descriptions – I think it is helpful to carrying the message for those who have experienced abuse to let others know, so that they can talk at other times outside the meeting about these common experiences.

I also think it can be very helpful to have special meetings where abuse or recovery from abuse is one of the suggested topics. For some people sharing in a group is safer and healthier than sharing in a one on one relationship – no matter if the relationship is sponsor sponsee or therapist patient or not. Some members do not have resources that provide therapists. Some members are too sick to be in a one on one relationship with a sponsor or cannot find a sponsor who can deal with abuse issues. For some a group is safer than a one on one relationship.
Meetings are autonomous and Intergroups should support and list special meetings which focus on these and/or other topics.

I am an incest and rape survivor. I do not believe it is appropriate to share abuse issues in the rooms unless it is exclusively same gender. And even then sharing on the topic of surviving abuse should only be shared to the extent that the person sharing does not trespass managing their own safety. What I mean by that, is that, regardless of what gender is listening to the share the member sharing abuse may realize that they have endangered their ability to feel safe in the meeting. I believe managing our safety is crucial to ensure we continue coming back. A sponsor or therapist may not be able to lend experience strength and hope with helping members navigate safely “getting current” when they are a survivor of abuse. For me, my recovery has included going outside the rooms and speaking with advocates specially trained in understanding victims of all varieties of abuse. It was/is a powerful phenomenon to practice getting current with others with my exclusive commonality in a safe environment where my anonymity is assured. Having this layer of recovery to augment my recovery in our rooms enabled me to establish / “restore” what it felt like to “feel safe” while sharing the most vulnerable experience(s) of my life. It allowed me to participate in SLAA meetings and share my experience, strength, and hope where it could be of service to other members seeking recovery without being inappropriately graphic. For me, it is appropriate to share in meetings from a “recovered life” vs. still being a victim/ survivor. Does that make sense?

Is the member’s therapist or sponsor the ideal person to share abuse issues with? I would not want to publish that as an idea that could be consistently reliable. Is there a way that each SLAA meeting can utilize the tradition of a group conscious meeting to thoughtfully cultivate a statement that could be included in the preamble / format / or principles of the meeting that would pro-actively address recovering from abuse? If it is possible I would imagine that communication / support / guidance would need to be provided from SLAA FWS level. Nobody helped me put the plan of care in place that I needed. I just realized I needed support outside of the rooms in order to fully recover within the rooms. Maybe meeting by meeting, there could be a member that voluntarily speaks, one on one, outside of the meeting with meeting participant’s that inappropriately share about abuse. It is a big question and I respect that there are most likely a wide variety of ways to soberly facilitate a solution. Thank you for listening to my perspective.

Tradition one states the vital importance of unity within the fellowship to individual recovery: Tradition 5 reminds us of our primary purpose in carrying the message of recovery from sex and love addiction; Tradition 10 warns us to avoid giving opinions on outside issues.. These were the primary basis for the guideline from the General Service Office of AA, reflecting a decision of the Conference Delegates that individuals should attempt to focus their sharing to experiences around alcohol, rather than other addictions. In SLAA we generally try to follow the guidelines used by the original 12 Step fellowship.

Also, the Fellowship discourages naming therapists and treatment programs, and methods of treating our addictions and related issues that are not related to the 12 Steps, such as those involving medications, hypnosis, acupuncture, trauma recovery groups, etc. Our experience, strength, and hope as a Fellowship is about using the 12 Steps and Fellowship of other sex and love addicts to recover from our addiction to sex, romantic relationships, fantasy, and rigid avoidance of sexual and emotional nurture and experience (anorexia).
However, discussion in a meeting might be something like “using the 12 Steps to recover from the effects of abuse and trauma that still affect our lives today”. That is, just as discussions can be about dealing with temptations such as business dinners and family parties where flirting and intrigue occur, it can also be about how our experiences in childhood and in our families growing up affected our addictions and still affect our recovery today.

The point is that no one topic should be the focus of discussions week after week, except use of the Steps themselves. Sharing, however, is individual, and telling our stories or sharing about the burdens we carry as we learn to use the Steps can range freely, including how that individual has survived trauma and abuse.

One thing to remember is that people at a meeting who have not felt that abuse and trauma were something they personally experienced or had to deal with, will generally not participate in discussions about those topics. Our experiences in life vary widely, and not everyone will identify with the experiences of some with incest, other addictions, abuse or trauma, or finding serenity through bird watching and serving at soup kitchens, or attending other 12 Step Fellowships. However, we are often reminded that we should try to identify with those sharing, not compare our experiences with theirs.

Using the Steps and fellowship of SLAA on all areas of our lives is the common ground for us all. As long as we are remembering that primary purpose, we can share freely about our individual, personal experience with using the Steps and fellowship of SLAA on any part of our individual lives, however different that experience may be from others in the meetings, including experiences with abuse and trauma before and in recovery. It is within the experience, strength, and hope of many people in SLAA recovery, but not of the Fellowship as a whole.

My story is my story. If abuse and trauma – or the absence of it – or recognition and recovery from other addictions, are part of my own story, it does not need to be edited, as long as SLAA recovery is my central message.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.