We had an incident of violence between a newcomer and an old-timer during a meeting. It was essentially a fist-fight. Some meeting regulars do not want to return to the meeting without additional safety measures because they feel unsafe. What has been the resolution in similar circumstances? What, if any, additional safety measures have been taken in similar circumstances?
“An incident of violence” is not tolerable at an S.L.A.A. meeting. As described in the question, members no longer feel the meeting is safe. I have no experience with anything similar. Nevertheless, this is extremely serious. How do we as a Fellowship prevent this kind of thing in the future? AA has an excellent statement on Safety. I’ve attached the link below. We should not ever hesitate about calling the proper authorities. The meeting chair, and the meeting format, should be clear that unsociable behavior will not be tolerated. The group conscience should discuss how to respond to different types of behavior.
It is critical that our meetings are safe, that attendees feel safe in every way. In 2019 the S.L.A.A. Board of Trustees adopted a Safety statement. (Based on the AA Safety Card:
A group conscience of the meeting in question should establish safety measures for this meeting. The two members involved in the fight should be excluded (suspended) from the meeting for some period of time. Creating a statement to read at the beginning of each meeting would be appropriate. Talking with the proper authorities about what happened and establishing a mutual understanding of getting an appropriate response from them in the future would be a reasonable action. I hope this meeting survives this incident. It will be a stronger meeting if it does. https://www.aa.org/assets/en_us/smf-209_en.pdf
There is nothing in the Steps, Traditions or Concepts that address violence in a meeting. Violence is an illegal activity, and subject to all local, state and federal laws. Meeting members can sometimes believe that an illegal activity occurring in a meeting should be kept in confidence and shielded from consequences. But, the meeting members are in no way bound by that idea.
I have been in meetings where we had to call the police, and while difficult, it was necessary to provide safety for our members. AA has a very good safety statement, which is included below for reference:
Our group endeavors to provide a safe meeting place for all attendees and encourages each person here to contribute to fostering a secure and welcoming environment in which our meetings can take place. As our Traditions remind us, the formation and operation of an A.A. group resides with the group conscience. Therefore, we ask that group members and others refrain from any behavior which might compromise another person’s safety.
Also, please take the precautions you feel are necessary to ensure your own personal safety, for example, walking to your car in a group after a meeting. If a situation should arise where someone feels their safety is in jeopardy, or the situation breaches the law, the individuals involved should take appropriate action. Calling the proper authorities does not go against any A.A. Traditions and is recommended when someone may have broken the law or endangered the safety of another person.
The last two sentences are especially applicable to this situation. My hope is that the meeting has a robust discussion about the issue, and reaches a group conscience that keeps all members safe.
We were not there and have no information why the individuals engaged in violence. Therefore the simple answer is that the meeting can meet and vote to ban either or both of them for a period of say a year or permanently.
Enforcing the ban can be difficult. In my jurisdiction, members have successfully obtained apprehended violence orders against other members, so the meeting can call the Police to remove a known violent person of he or she tries to attend.
Members have also been charged with crimes for their behaviour at and in the vicinity of meetings – including threats to kill – and faced the consequences of their behaviour in Court. The requirement that meetings and members remain safe is essential to our primary purpose to carry the message.
Our intergroup has been asked to ban individuals from all meetings, but banning is a question for group conscience of each individual affected Group, not their Intergroup. It is possible for a banned member to start their own meeting and if that meeting is healthy and safe, it may grow.
Members can learn from their mistakes, grow and recover by the grace of God. Banned members can also join phone meetings. SLAA remains available to support even the very unwell in their addiction. We believe that even those with grave mental and emotional problems – sometimes unfortunately culminating in violence – can recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Finally, the new S.L.A.A. booklet Triggers as a Resources can help members learn to process upsetting events and gain control of their responses. Each incident of conflict between members turns on its own facts so the rest of the group are best placed to listen to eye witness accounts, discuss the ongoing risks and agree in group conscience how best to respond.
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.