Twelve steps for sex addicts – Are we protecting sex offenders?

One founding principle of twelve steps groups is anonymity. But what do groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) or Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA) do when a member self-reports about sexual assault? Or what should members do? More here.

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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?

Reference sources:
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous website
Sex Addicts Anonymous website
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. One of my meetings has several mandated reporters who attend, so a clause was added to one of our readings. . . Although this is an anonymous meeting, anonymity is not a legal right, and therefore we offer no legal protection for any share that mentions a crime punishable by law.

  2. Hi MH. You can find help if you need it. Email me your zip code and Let me know if you’re looking for treatment, or not…I’ll look for in and out patient treatment centers in your area.

  3. Mental health issues are very important in my family. We have depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety (PTSD) from the long wars, and just plain old alcohol problems. I am convinced my family has bad genetic material for so many of us to be this messed up.

  4. Update: I heard back from Joe H., the DOO for SAA who helped clarify points on whether or not the anonymity factor should prevent members from reporting sexual offenses. Here is what he said:

    Dear Lee,

    Our meetings are autonomous as a such we do not have policies specific
    to individual meetings. I would suggest that all sexual assaults no
    matter where they happen should be reported as required by the laws in
    the state in which the sexual assault occurred.

    If an SAA group ask for guidance in the area of disclosure, we refer
    them to two workshops CD’s which were done during our international
    conventions. These workshops do not represent the official view of the
    International Service Organization of SAA, Inc. and as such carry
    disclaimer labels. You are welcome to purchase these CD’s from our
    online store.

    In Recovery,

    Joe H.
    Director of Operations
    International Service Organization of SAA, Inc.
    800-477-8191 / 713-869-4902

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