Sexual Harassment in Alcoholics Anonymous

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You may not be aware, but both Men and Women get sexually harassed in Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s called 13 stepping in AA. People get financially scammed in AA, and this impacts men, too.

Recently a man from NYC contacted me. Telling me that there are and were a lot of cougar women hitting on and sexually harassing young attractive 20 something men in AA. He wanted to make sure that the story we are telling is a fair one and that he himself had been harassed 20 years ago.

I want you to know that there is a lawsuit pending against AA.

No one should put up with the crap that I am reading here. EVER!!!

Walk away. Go to the police if an assault happens.

You are not broken. You are not wrong and you have NO PART IN IT!

Stay strong and contact us if you need to talk at makeaasafer@gmail.com

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32 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment in Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. If you’ve been in or around AA, you’re probably all too familiar with the ‘blame the victim’ approach- whatever happens to an individual, misguided and/or judgmental idiots find some way to make it the victim’s fault: what the person ‘should have’ or ‘shouldn’t have’ done, ‘what was her part,’ etc.

    A change with local AA should show what the facts really are.
    Years ago, what was probably the most well-known AA group in the area was located in an area that was slightly remote- you were not likely to see anyone other than AA members, or an occasional pedestrian going to a nearby convenience store.
    However- a few years ago, the meeting-place was moved. Its new location: a residential/business area where the general population consists mostly of young adult professionals- a little wealthier, educated, nice young people who only want to live their lives and do not bother anyone.

    Moving the meeting-place resulted in AA members now having the opportunity to cause trouble for ‘civilians’ (non-members). A young guy who complained about the group stated some of the members frequently harassed, even assaulted, and appeared to be threatening sexual assault of his girlfriend and other young women in the nearby apartment buildings. These young folks did not belong to AA- their only connection was they’d been living in the nearby apartment building for a long time.

    So individuals who take the judgmental attitude that people who are involved in AA basically deserve whatever happens to them should take a clear look at this turn of events. While I’m certainly not saying all AA members are like this, I am also not surprised to hear about these ‘behaviors’ from members of this particular group. When they have wrongdoing on their mind, they don’t care who is on the receiving end of it- and the experiences of this guy and the women he knew should make this fact perfectly clear. Young women aren’t safe in their own neighborhood- where they lived and worked for a long time- because this AA group moved in next door.

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  2. As a man with happy long term higher powered step-based sobriety I thought I was safe from this kind of thing.

    Then at 11 years sober I was 13th stepped by an AA groupie who was clinically depressed (and taking meds which I didn’t believe in at the time) and also an active member of Codependents Anonymous – but didn’t tell me either of these facts until we were well into the relationship.

    I was manipulated (even to the extent that she instructed me how to pronounce certain words in certain ways – I kid you not) and ultimately ended the relationship. She’s now in a relationship with one of my sponsees ..!

    I left AA after 14 years when I found out, and I stayed sober through the process despite the “social death” that AA apostates commonly suffer. (Jerry DeWitt writes brilliantly about this as a pastor who lost his faith in his memoir Hope After Faith, I think the same applies in AA.)

    Like others I benefit from blogging my experience, strength and hope on the issue. I suppose it’s the equivalent of sharing at a meeting.

    I do that at my “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” site, which includes links to other sources for those who may be interested in safe 12 step de-programming.

    Leaving AA, Staying Sober: jonsleeper.wordpress.com

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    1. Hi John and welcome ! SO Sorry to hear this sad story. Its very true that many men also have this happen to them. But its also the crazy cultish language and thinking that I too am sure hurt my first marriage when I was a brainwashed stepper. Im glad you are free and I will check out your blog. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Please do send the letter, if more people did this then they would have to do something about it eventually, or…. when they are politely asked to leave their venues… they would know why it happened. The courts are sending violent criminals and pedophiles to AA meetings which are held in churches and community based locations – this means they are putting pedophiles in the exact location that children attend their after school, evening and weekend programs. So dangerous….

    Librarian.

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    1. I see your point but if she sends the letter , when they get sued, there will be a huge file filled with complaint letters and then showing they did nothing to warn members or the public. Thats all.

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  4. Hi Pearl here
    I’ve been thinkin after going thru a horrific 13th step experience
    AA is behind the times
    In a way
    As for some years other spiritual organisations have been shook up and had to become more accountable about crime and sexual abuse and raise their awareness levels about respecting and caring for other human beings
    I don’t know if it will do any good but I’m thinking to write to AA central service office requesting they produce pamphlets for every group about 13 th stepping and crime in AA and also a pamphlet about ‘ Anonymity’ and that it does not mean being silent about 13 th Stepping and crime
    I don’t know if it ever will but I think AA really needs to update otherwise as an organisation it is supporting 13th steppers and criminals and disregarding neglecting and sometimes persecuting and worse people targeted by 13th steppers and criminals
    I think AA needs to get real and come into line with healthy respectful social standards and expectations

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    1. pearl
      Please write to them and sent it to them and keep a photo copy for yourself. I would mail one copy and email another. just a suggestion. Let us know how it goes.

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  5. Hi Pearl here
    I gratefully sent in a few shares a while ago about my partner bein 13th stepped in AA during an extremely vulnerable time and this being a major contributer to the loss of my long term partner
    I was given support and found special healing in this website
    Well today people in an AA meeting tried to shout me down and some walked out on my share when I spoke honestly about what had happened and also named the 13th stepper
    I thought why do so many people support 13th steppers and attack or ignore offended parties
    I guess cos it triggers them and they just can’t take real honesty
    I thought I need some justice why should this person get away with this n go on to do more
    It’s not fair
    I don’t normally go to that meeting and I felt so incredibly lonely after that experience
    Sometimes we really have to stand alone n maybe that can be a part of what standing up for oneself can be- standing alone in truth even if it’s devastating
    I left the meeting straight after it ended and I expect some of the members may have said how ‘sick’ I was
    But for me it’s silence that can make me sick not standing in truth and speaking up
    Anyhow I got some support from dear friends later
    Thank God for real honest loving friends thank God
    I’m just worried about retribution of some kind
    When I speak up i get afraid after but hopefully please God I will be safe n ok
    I thought I will send a blog to this wonderful website n hopefully find some strength there
    God bless ya all n thx so very much for bein there
    Pearl

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  6. Perhaps the most ironic thing about this relationship was how it finally really ended. An old man made some sexual comments about her, and she asked me what I thought of it. I told her that he was obviously messed up and doesn’t know any better. She was clearly upset that I didn’t understand the 13th stepping that was hurting her at that point, saying “Oh so you’re DEFENDING him?” I said no, but I’m not him and he’s the one who said those things to you, not me. At the time, I didn’t see that I should have called that old man out. She was so upset at this, and I was so frustrated that I was being held responsible for what someone else said that I broke it off. A few months later, the guy died, and she, as far as I know, is still in AA.

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  7. I was listening to this episode again and noticed a few things the caller said that were interesting to me. First of all, AA is very internally aware of 13th stepping, but as he noted, this is twisted even beyond what you’ve been talking about: He claimed that potential sexual rivals are thrown to the predators (to get rid of them). He also stated, basically, that “Stay away from those people” often meant “Come to me”. This guy has been in AA for decades; I only went to AA for 2 years. I believe him because I’ve seen the hypocrisy and can extrapolate. I’m not interested in delving into it any deeper, personally, as much as I like to explore. I’m done with AA and will only discourage others from it in the future. I’m trying to get all this shit out of my head and get back to reality.

    I dont think there is any safety solution to be had here. AA is so fundamentally twisted that their own so-called safeguards become the mechanisms of abuse.

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  8. I’m not the guy who called in to your last show, by the way. I was just happy to hear that you let a man be heard about this, and yeah, I wish your film could have included more men, but I think the film will still expose the general dynamics and hope people will not take it sexistly, because this really isn’t about predatory MEN, it’s about AA fucking all kinds of people up.

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  9. Here is an earlier conversation, before I had decided to try to ‘get healthy’ by having a sexual relationship with the first woman. I can see that she was using AA ideas to manipulate me from the start. Yes, I fell for it, and not everything was bad, but the AA dynamics made some parts of this relationship unnecessarily bad.

    her: I dreamt of u
    her: Just sharing…I want to have sex. I am a sexual creature
    me: I can’t do that…I don’t really want that kind of relationship
    her: Sexual?
    me: Yea
    her: But ur sexual
    me: Id just rather not…I don’t need to explain boundaries really, its just the line I’ve set
    her: U don’t have to do many things but I’m asking u to explain. Y so defensive?

    (it’s defensive to say no to sex?)

    me: It’s just not negotiable at this point, I need to stay sober
    her: I’m not trying to negotiate…I’m trying onto understand
    me: its not something I’m used to
    her: I like touching u n being touched
    me: Yes its nice but I have to avoid it
    me: It’s easier to relax when I don’t have to think about this stuff, so like alcohol just avoiding it solves a lot for me
    her: 😦 so sex is like alcohol to u?…Or being sexual?

    (yes, I was starting to wonder if she or I might be ‘addicted’ to sex, but luckily I never went to SA)

    me: i think i’ve explained it enough…it’s a powerful thing and im not strong enough to deal with it right now
    her: I’m sad that this is not an honest friendship.

    (oh, so suddenly I wasn’t being ‘honest’ when I said no?)

    me: i don’t know what you’re talking about
    me: Why do you think this isn’t an honest friendship
    me: what is dishonest about this?
    her: :-(…No worries it is what it is
    her: I know u benefit from my care
    me: i hope you benefit from my care too
    her: Nite
    me: thanks, good night
    her: You’re welcome? 😥 I forget how sick u r.

    (ouch)

    I realize it’s weird to post private conversations online like this, and I certainly wouldn’t want some of my worst moments to be publicized online. But I think, taken anonymously, these are important examples of how the AA ideas start to become standard ways of manipulating people.

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  10. I’ll think about it. I do want people to know that it’s the culture and the teachings of AA that seem to encourage or enable this kind of weird sexual manipulation, condescension and blindness to the dysfunction of it, which has very little to do with getting healthy and sober. I’ve been in healthy relationships too, and they don’t go like this; there’s mutual respect and forgiveness and more reasonable expectations about what people really owe to each other (respect, mostly. Certainly nobody ‘owes’ anyone sex.) Like I said, though, it’s a little embarassing for a guy to make claims like this, and it’s hard to call yourself a ‘victim’ when people want to have sex with you. It’s hard to distinguish whether that is a compliment or disrespect, sometimes, especially when nothing like a ‘rape’ happened.

    I suppose it’s a similar feeling for women, thinking “maybe it really was my fault that I was treated this way…I wasn’t entirely sober when it happened.”

    My opinion is not that these women were ‘abusers’ or predators, really. Just that AA encouraged some sick dynamics, and the product of that (the words like those of the woman above, and their more or less objective meanings) are fairly easy to interpret as dysfunctional by anyone outside of AA.

    In the end, whether it’s in these unhealthy AA relationships, or with these dynamics in play among professionals, it can always work in the manipulator’s favor (in AA), by the ‘victim’ being called an alcoholic and gaslighting the hell out of them, making them feel ashamed for not ‘working the program’ as selflessly as others want them to, and making them feel that they would have deserved better treatment if they weren’t ‘sick’. All they wanted, really, was support in overcoming an alcohol problem, not to be torn down sexually and every other which way.

    These weren’t healthy relationships for me, because they had this element of condescension and basic disrespect, and ‘stop trying to think for yourself’ and ‘do what we in AA tell you to do’. It’s very confusing when you’re trying to get better and you’re being told you’re selfish or manipulative, or won’t have a chance of getting better, by refusing to have sex that you’re not entirely comfortable with or ready for.

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    1. Thank you for telling me all this
      I had hoped for there to be more men in the film
      This is how I see it I know this happens and it needs to be exposed
      You writing it here helps
      I’ll write more tomorrow .

      Get it out of your head is a good idea blogging helped me a lot when I was Deprogramming. .
      My film will expose the can of worms AA is
      Others will pour gasoline on it and others will light the match
      Good night for now !

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  11. Sometimes I feel like I’m overreacting or strange for feeling guilty about these relationships. And I also try to put it into perspective. I wasn’t ‘raped’ or anything. But then I try to imagine if these were conversations between a ‘sober man’ and a vulnerable young woman, and they seem like they would be, in that case, much more clearly manipulative, inappropriate and ‘predatory’.

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    1. I wish that I had more men come forward to talk about this as I was making the film. I had one man come forward who was badly 13 stepped 30 yard ago but he needed to be filmed in the dark and I really needed an dawned people in the “light” so we can stop this anonymous situation. AA is not a secret society. Its a 501c3. its a non profit corp that is accountable to all the laws in the state and at the federal level.
      Oh how much will it take to expose the sickness and predatory BS that you are telling here.

      There is the possibility of having you on my radio show for a full hour and even filming you if you want and then adding to the Website of the film. All of it will help. Also if you know of any situations where criminals stuff happened we have a great lawyer to sue.

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    1. This predatory behavior is bad enough, but has anyone ever been to a GAY AA or NA meeting. It’s like a meat market. I had the misfortune to be a good-looking college boy at the time…and I’ve always looked younger than I am. I left after telling one man old enough be my Dad + 15 years that “if you don’t remove your hand, I’m going to break it…and your arm — I DECIDE WHO TOUCHES ME AND WHERE. (I added: ‘I wouldn’t fuck you with someone else’s dick!”) Worse yet was the way the “pretty boys” and “studs” treated the “trolls” and “losers”. I was a little wild then and my Dad taught us kids to be tough; we’re Sicilian and there’s no such thing as a fair fight. Yes, (I kicked some ass o occasional my Dad wasn’t thrilled with my being a fag, but my intelligence mitigated that somewhat.) I always found good boyfriends anyplace but bars, etc; my current partner is 30, looks 20 and is the cousin of one of my former patients; that he was a Tier I CK model tells the rest. He also is very sweet and still models; I still haven’t figured out how he got my private cell number and unlisted landline. His cuz was good at B&Es and I think he took advantage of arriving for an appointment when I was tied up on the phone with the ED docs regarding one of the bizarre ODs my mentor specialized in treating successfully. Could have been worse; he could have ripped off the special triplicate Rx forms the state issued for prescribing Schedule II opiates, amphetamines, etc AND the benzos, such as Valium.

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      1. Dr Joey- I think your posting here is very important. I went to West Hollywood to speak right before I left AA in 2011. I was speaking in Jan of 2010 to a vert largely Gay population. Across the street from the Log Cabin in We ho there is a Gay community center. It filled with AA meetings all day long. I was pulled aside by a very attractive guy, who pulled on my arms with a very serious , sad, disturbed look in his eye. and he said

        ” you have to help me ….I said, “how ” he said, There are old-timers who are raping the young new guys and getting away with it. They are harassment young gay newcomers so bad that their are running to straight mens stage meetings. ”

        My jaw dropped. I went back with a CBS news reporter for The Sober Truth episode, and their were a few guys with Alot of “time ” who think they own their sponsees. It was ver scary to me .

        That meeting hall would be amazing to protest when the film comes out.

        I know from interviewing two lesbian women for the film, I found no gay man who would speak out on camera the 3 1 /2 years I was making the film . Maybe someone will for later films and expose’.

        I was also told from the women who was raped here, that when she went to the rape & crisis center near her, THEY SAID that rape in the LGBT community out there was horrific!

        I also had a very wealthy rich young man tell me a story that is so very sad. A gay man in is early 20’s was raped by an old-timer fucker. He is not doing well. 😦 This stuff needs to be reported in the News at every high level and go viral Then all need to go to jail.

        I hope you and I can talk .

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  12. Later, after learning to keep things platonic, another middle aged woman who drove me home from meetings awkwardly told me: “I can’t drive you home anymore.” I said “Why not?” She said, “Because you’re so close…but I can’t touch you.”

    I said “I understand,” and got out of the car.

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  13. Glad to hear that you are supporting 13th stepped men now too.

    Here are some quotes from a good but AA brainwashed woman who I got entangled with (anonymous, and I’ve eliminated parts of the conversation to give just the essence of what I heard…. and just so you can see how the AA mentality factors into this kind of coercion):

    “i wonder if u realize the gift and value of my presence… I give to those I care for. Ur privileged not deserving some might say of my care… u know you’re not in a place where u can or know how to be humane with and to other folks since u r still fighting your will over alcohol….oh poor you, you’re the victim…I only want the occasional evening interaction and everything else is less than necessary…whatever helps you continue living in denial…it’s your best attempt at coping…I feel like I’m dealing with the patients and clients from work and u just suck up all the positive care I give in the most ungrateful manner….U will never lift from your depression until you surrender be humble and give back”

    At this point I said “Honestly I feel like you’re putting me down because I’m not sleeping with you”.

    “Sex with you is nothing to feel anything about…you’re an alcoholic who relapses and has put others sobriety in jeopardy…i gave you my care and you don’t even know how lucky you are that i allowed you in my space….any thoughts of others? I have lowered my standards for you….justify why you want to drink and continue the dysfunction you were bred in….I’m done protecting you from reality…. to surrender…I guess I’m just really upset at myself for letting you have an ounce of my time and energy and love. I feel silly for thinking that you would be different or grow or learn or want to be a better person. I’m embarrassed to have believed you could be someone with a compassionate soul who cared.”

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