SAFETY IN MEETINGS – A female member was uncomfortable as a male newcomer followed her to her car after a meeting

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:
A female member was followed to her car by a new comer that had identified himself as wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. Any experience, strength and hope you can lend to our group would be greatly appreciated. I am announcing a group conscious meeting on the subject of safety tomorrow night but we will not conduct the meeting until next month. Thank you for your kind help.
Editor’s note: you are reminded that this was a discussion held between several people and that there are varying thoughts and perspectives regarding this very real question. The discussion is presented in its entirety, with only non-related writing omitted. The reader is encouraged to consider ways to keep our meetings a place of safety.


This is a great question since it does involve the safety of a member attending a meeting. Unfortunately, there are predators who will attend a meeting from time to time in an effort to pick someone up or possibly to attack an unsuspecting member. It is advisable for women to not walk to the parking area alone, especially in the evening, but in a group of either other women or even near or in a group of men who are leaving the meeting. Another alternative is to ask someone to watch if you are parked at a distance from the door. Although it is sometimes difficult to get a parking space near the door, but I would also suggest parking as near to the entrance just in case you need to retreat to safety. As much as I dislike car alarms, this is one of those situations where it could come in handy, since many of them also have a panic alarm which will repeatedly flash the lights and sound the horn to draw attention to what is happening. If the man were to make inappropriate remarks, try to grab the woman or even worse, try to get into the car, I would suggest (and I know some might bristle at this suggestion) call the police. I realize that this could require the woman to give a reason as to why she is at that location, but a simple explanation that she was attending a meeting (not identifying the type of meeting) and was going home. This is one of those issues where personal safety would have to override anonymity. This would fall into the same type of category as someone sharing in a meeting that they were engaging in illegal activities with a minor. If at all possible, getting a license plate number for the vehicle which the man is driving would also be very important.

There are also times when a man might ask for a ride home. And, yes, I have seen men ask a woman for a ride and vice-versa. This can be a very uncomfortable situation for the person who has been asked for the ride and I would suggest that unless you know the person well and feel totally comfortable that you decline the request – make sure that you have somewhere else to go. I have, in the past, seen a newer man walk to the parking lot behind a woman. Because some of us were uncomfortable around the man and were unsure of his motives, we watched very carefully to make sure that she would make it to the car safely. I do believe that the meeting should, at Group Conscience, address this issue to make sure that everyone can feel safe coming to a meeting. If the man who followed her to the parking lot continues to attend the meeting, I would suggest that some of the men approach him and let him know that what he is doing is inappropriate and making someone feel uncomfortable. This would be at the digression of the Group Conscience. These are my personal thoughts regarding this question.


Others have detailed excellent suggestions about dealing with someone who is causing concerns about the safety of those who attend the meeting. I can only say “ditto” to all of it. I would like to add my voice to the suggestion that the police be brought in, but first I would have two members, preferably men, approach the individual and acknowledge the likelihood that the behavior really shows how unmanageable our addiction can be. I would assure the person that the group wants to help him with recovery, and will do so. However, it needs to be said with caring: “This behavior is unacceptable. We want to help you, but if the behavior continues, we will have no choice except to report it to the police. Everyone who comes to our meeting, sincerely looking for help will get it. Both men and women must be safe. Please consider carefully what we have said before you come back to another meeting.” My point is that I believe we should give anyone a chance to change, even while we send a clear message. In my mind it is not even a matter that needs group conscience: Just as we would turn the merely curious away from a closed meeting, a group always has the right to turn someone away who is behaving in a way that makes it clear there is something other than recovery on his/her mind.

My guess is that changing the preamble is adding a warning that is not needed in a very large proportion of meetings. The warning itself may communicate a message that the risk is far greater than it really is. Clear, timely action that includes the realistic warning to the offending person that illegal behavior will be something to be reported to the police and pursued by the group, is much more likely to have an immediate effect. I have been in groups with similar problems, one time and unwanted physical approach, and the other, someone who collected phone numbers to which he made obscene phone calls. Without proof, just the description of the action that would be taken toward anyone who was suspected of that inappropriate behavior was enough to cause the offending person to stop coming to the meeting. I do believe that intervention and prevention are preferable to confrontation, which requires some group intrigue to discuss that individual without the person having an opportunity to be present.
I want to add that I think it the responsibility of volunteers from the group to handle this as trusted servants on a timely basis.

I do not think it requires a “formal meeting” to acquire a formal “group conscience.” I would go further to say that the offender might enjoy getting lots of attention and therefore a simple communication by two members of the same gender might be better. Yes, one person should not take it upon themselves to handle this alone. Some of the leaders of the group, three or more, current and former officers and/or long timers in program, not necessarily at this meeting, could help. Help from outside the meeting from sponsors or long timers from other meetings could also be requested. Although business meetings and group conscience are very important for very many decisions, some things are better dealt with discreetly by a few trusted servants, than by drawing lots of attention and time of newcomers, into an extensive discussion and focus on inappropriate activities. Putting things in the format can be very helpful. However, in some situations like stalking and inappropriate clothing attire, quiet discreet communication may be more helpful and less harmful. Personally, I have sometimes felt the attention to choice of clothing read in the format at every meeting distracting, negative, and bordering on triggering. I have been triggered by what someone wore to a meeting of a different fellowship. Hearing about sexually intriguing behavior at the start of every meeting sets me up for fantasy addiction behavior. I can sit in the meeting and fantasize about how others might dress, rather than listen, pray, or meditate.

If need be attend a different meeting. I carry a flashlight, mostly so I don’t fall on my face, but this can add a safety factor. Ask for help from the guys that are safe, it’s great recovery practice to learn to stick up for ourselves. If not close to the building, park by a light. Carry mace, stun gun etc… Look up online for ways to protect ourselves in this situation. Ask other “S” groups their opinion. Ask local police if they have ideas. I don’t need to put myself in harm’s way. I’d feel most safe having someone walk with me to my car. Stay in reality not denial of the extent of the situation (don’t minimize). BUT stay out of the drama. These are some issues I deal with in stressful times.


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.