Twelve step groups, anonymity and sex crimes
Twelve step programs for sex addiction face a conundrum. Although the principle of anonymity can help keep meetings a safe place for participants, what happens if a member reports relapsing into an “Inner Circle” sexual behavior such as sexual assault, or having sex without consent?
Thankfully, some twelve step program such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) address this issue head on with an SLAA anonymity fact sheet and suggestions on anonymity, mainly urging individuals to act on their own conscience to report illegal sex acts to proper authorities, but making a distinction between the individual and the organization in terms of responsibility. Their guide to anonymity is brief but direct and neither condones nor urges and specific action regarding reporting others…but it makes the laws clear.
Other organizations, such as Sex Addict Anonymous, seem to suspend any call to action and are rather oblique about the issue. They ask that you contact them for suggestions about disclosure of personal information. Their website claims, “We practice strict anonymity and confidentiality, so that our meetings are a safe place for all of us. Whom we meet or what is said in a meeting is considered as confidential.”
Anonymity a good idea?
I’m not sure that this is such a great idea. I do believe that personal responsibility has limits, and that in cases of sex acts done against the will of a participant, legal consequences are essential to protect victims of sexual assault. In other words, if a sexual offender goes to a meeting and talks about sexual assault, you should report this to the authorities.
Just imagine that you are the victim of a sexual assault, your assaulter confesses in a Twelve Step meeting, no one does anything, and the assaulter returns to assault you again. Or that after years and years of silence, a sexual offender is not held responsible for sexual acts committed in the past. But if it’s good for the goose, isn’t it good for the gander? So, if sexual acts should be reported…shouldn’t other “Confessions” in other twelve step groups also be reported? Drug dealing? Prostitution? Drug use?
What do you think?