“We had to begin to make our peace, and so we listed the people we had harmed and became willing to set things right.” (12×12 Step Twelve, p. 108)

Alcoholics Anonymous has this weird logic that if they set rules against sexual harassment that it will hurt their image.  Funny, because it’s the exact opposite that is happening.  AA’s reputation is damaged because they won’t make any rules against members forcing other members to have sex with them.

Why is AA against creating a zero tolerance rule against bullying and sexual harassment?  My kids go to elementary school and junior high, respectively, and their student handbooks include rules of zero tolerance against bullying and sexual harassment.  Parents don’t view that as an admission their kids are in an unsafe environment- they view it as a safety policy that is strongly enforced.  Any violators would be punished accordingly and that makes for a safe, secure, pleasant environment for children.  The same goes for colleges and workplaces and churches.

But AA doesn’t need rules.  They are wild west cowboys with their own form of law, and if there’s a bad guy, the folks at the meeting will give him or her the boot.  But it’s so hard for new people to distinguish who’s the sheriff and who’s the bad guy.  The trust newcomers place on these strangers is enormous, so if another AA member harms them that really destroys that trust.  But if other members blame the victim, or ask them what their “part in it” was, that cause further damage.


Besides, there’s very little advice for an AA member who is “struggling.”  Maybe go back to the first step- admit they’re powerless and their lives are unmanageable.  Little is done about the personal issues not related to drinking.  If they’re not getting along with their wives, “go to a meeting.”  If they’re having a hard time at work, “pray about it.”  What about someone who goes to another AA’s house under the impression they’d be doing “step work” only to be raped?

What is it about rape, sexual assault, and physical abuse that makes AA members get so defensive?  When I went to AA meetings, boasting of humility was the norm- as well as boasting about how moral one was. I find it cunning, baffling, and powerful that these same individuals consider crimes committed by AA members “outside issues.”  Deflecting the problem onto the victim, or pointing out how “bad things” happen everywhere, or how the victim should have done this, or done that, seems to the norm.

“Go to women’s meetings only.”  “Stick with the winners.”  “Some are sicker than others.”  “Ask God for HIS protection [my emphasis on the capital male pronoun].”  “People act out sometimes, and not always by drinking.”  These excuses about rape are the same across state lines by people who have never met each other— Whose only common thread is that they all have attended AA meetings.  That’s pretty scary, actually.

“Or we may just procrastinate, telling ourselves the time is not yet, when in reality we have already passed up many a fine chance to right a serious wrong.” (12×12 Step Nine, p. 85)

I really don’t care if I become a broken record.  I am speaking up against any and all abuse in AA because I care about what is right.  I won’t budge or back down when it comes to making all AA meetings face- especially because treatment centers rely on their 12 Step meetings almost exclusively.  For so many people, it is not even their fault for attending AA, how can it be their fault for trusting the drug treatment counselors- the professionals- who sent them there in the first place.  If AA attendance is mandatory, there is an added addition that the person cannot refuse the treatment.


DUI convictions.  Nurses.  Lawyers.  Other professionals.  That’s a short list of people who are forced to attend AA every day as a part of their probation or job requirements to keep working in their field.  So this isn’t just about people who were abused as children, or live with an abusive partner, it’s about someone you yourself might know.  Someone you love and care about.  Maybe even you.  Even children as young as thirteen years old are mandated to AA.

Essentially, many people who start going to AA meetings are not in a position of power.  That goes for those “ordered” to go to AA, as well as those hoping to escape a life of abuse.  Some may be more vulnerable than others, but each person should be kept safe.  You tell them their “best thinking” got them there, that they have “stinkin’ thinkin'” and then you blame them if they’re raped for putting themselves at risk?  If that’s the case, then you’re basically saying the same thing as, “If you go to AA, you are at risk for rape.”  But no one in AA would say that.  It’s the fact that they don’t say anything at all that should be an indicator something is wrong here.

On the flip side, there are those who are proud of the fact AA welcomes the lowest of the low, those who no one else will accept.  But unchecked abusive and criminal activity should not be accepted- anywhere.  There are professionals who are better equipped to deal with that.  And if those people refuse to change, they can go to prison, where they belong.  It is not righteous, nor are you a better more accepting person to allow anyone into AA.  What you are is an enabler- a co-conspirator.

I think perhaps the “defensive” nature of AA members about the topic of rape comes from that place of virtue- a place where they know in their hearts they are wrong and feel guilt about it.  And if that’s the case, they can help rid themselves of that guilt by speaking up with me and the rest of us who are brave.

“He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn’t deserve it.” (Big Book, Into Action, p. 73)


8 thoughts on “AA Needs to Give a Damn About It’s Bad Reputation

  1. You bring up a great point. They seem to handle the bad reputation by doing nothing about the root causes that is increasingly making AA’s reputation even worse than it has been, as sexual, emotional and financial abuses continue by 12 step members at an alarming rate.

    They are not going to change the bad rap by just saying every issue is an outside issue. I cannot even believe people can say this in AA and NA with a straight face.What is so wrong about putting in safety measures in place? They need to consider stopping the mandating anyone to AA meetings.

    National Center for Safety Initiatives has great options for organizations to keep them safer


    1. “What is so wrong about putting safety measures in place?” My thoughts exactly. If it’s a money thing, I’m not buying it. Every year they want members to pay them money— for what? They don’t need money to open up “more meetings” or to raise money for 5k runs for the cure, to advertise on TV or the radio, or research for better alcoholism treatment. They raise money to mainly print and distribute literature— outdated literature? Their Big Book hasn’t been updated since 2001.

      They reprint the same thing for decades. Why not save money by selling used Big Books? Meetings aren’t financed by World Services of AA they run themselves. Where does all this money go to? The average AA member easily gives AA hundreds of dollars of their money a year, and not a dime of it is considered a charitable contribution by the IRS. That money is supposed to buy books and brochures and coffee for the home group meeting. Then the rest of it goes to the local county’s AA central office, and then that office sends some money to the HQ. Isn’t that how it works, if I’m wrong, correct me.

      And AA claims it won’t accept a lot of money in a single donation— like more than 3,000 dollars a year…. And AA claims it won’t accept ANY money at all from non-AA members. Really? But it will accept people sent to AA from non-AA places (i.e. court and treatment centers). People who may have money. Right? All this money and yet AA can’t protect anyone? Bullshit! Who believes these lies?

      Outdated, inaccurate informed literature is better than keeping our friends and family safe?

  2. I’m so happy u posted this. I hope AA members take heed and listen up. You would think they would want to put in safety guidelines, I just don’t get it. Their too afraid of losing members I think and also therapists and doctors may not want to refer clients there.

    Thanks again for writing this important blog entry.

    1. Read my other apply to “Antidenial” and YES absolutely it is mind boggling to me and most people with any amount of human compassion that AA refuses to establish safety measures. Any local yokel can start up an AA meeting, but that doesn’t mean John Doe/Jane Doe have any clue how to keep a roomful of strangers safe. There are no AA members with training to keep people safe. They are absolutely running meetings blind, deaf, and mute to these supposed- ahem- “outside” issues.

      I’d sober up better in Fight Club than at Alcoholics Anonymous. By the way, watch Fight Club, it’s a great story, plus it shows the lunatics who can end up at these open door policy support groups. (Or, better yet, it’s also a book. It’s probably better as a book than a movie.) 🙂

  3. hi I love your new blog. I didn’t realize you had one alone with Facebook other wise I would have been over here supporting you ! Great job. 🙂

    1. I kept the link to the blog on the Facebook page. I think it was mentioned on the blogtalk radio show back in February or whenever I was on the show. I know everyone’s been real busy and it’s hard to keep all the pages/websites straight in my mind, also. I’m new to being a part of a blogging community, and spend most time trying to reach a bigger audience on Facebook. The response on Facebook has been amazing!

      https://www.facebook.com/AARMEDwithFacts is the link to the Facebook page for AARMEDwithFacts (12 Step page against abuse) … It’s just great to be share my opinions and my story with people who have had similar experiences I’ve had. I.E. negative experiences in AA.

  4. AA meetings are sexist and patriarchal. Once in awhile, the patriarch is a kindly one but usually they are authoritative and focused on themselves and their powertrip. That’s how I always explained the 13 stepping. It felt just like being in a bar, with men trying to get laid like mad. And the women who were doormats (nonfeminist), got the worst of it. Yes of course the newcomers, and yes they are more vulnerable. But if they are clueless about feminism, their mother, sisters, and AA women (good luck), should try to enlighten them. Women are victims everywhere. By society’s structure, we hold the one-down position. The sexist nature of 12 Step meetings should enter into this discussion of sexual abuse at meetings.

    1. The women who stick up for themselves are labeled “feminists” when they’re not even far leftists or extremists. The others are timid and mild mannered. Which allows them to fall prey, naturally. Not all of these strong women are narcissists, but just confident women. Many men are strong, powerful and narcissistic. Sometimes they actually cry in a meeting, but usually it is at some comment they made about how drinking made them less of a man or a father or husband. To many in AA, feminism is this idea that women should be better than men. Lol. Far from it. How about just treat women like people, not objects for men? The sexism in AA literature is DIRECTLY responsible for the sexual abuse. Defending the outdated, socially immoral time period that AA’s Big Book was written is bordering on criminal.

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