Many of us have seen television shows or movies that portray a woman at a Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting sharing her alcoholic story, including the positive aspects of her life now in sobriety. Afterward, she is embraced by other fellow AA members (male and female) that show their approval of what she has shared. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t know is that there are dangerous sexual offenders in the group. These predators are court mandated to report to AA meetings for alcohol-related infringements. They are not only alcoholics, but also have a record of domestic violence and/or rape. Frightening as this may sound, these violent offenders find that AA is the perfect place for them to target their next female victim.
This is a sad truth for women that are in recovery for an addiction, whether it be for alcoholism or substance abuse. Due to the prevalence of sexual abusers in AA, a 13-step was created that describes sexual predators (13 – steppers) that take advantage of vulnerable women, regardless if they are new in the program or not.
As proclaimed by Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink — and How They Can Regain Control, “There is such a history of this that AA actually has a term for people who seek out vulnerable newcomers for sex: “the 13th step.” But who is to blame — the rehab programs and courts that order people into a voluntary, amateur groups that cannot police people’s pasts, or groups like AA itself?”
The following is a story written by author Maria Szalavitz regarding a women that was murdered by a man that she met in AA. Her family is now suing AA. [She went to a rehab] that charged $42,000 a month. She was sharing room with mattresses on the floor [there] and [all the female patients were sent] in a van every day to AA and NA meetings at a sober house of only men. She meets this guy there who has been ordered into AA repeatedly — four times that we can see — with a history of domestic violence. He had six temporary restraining orders against him, a really violent and manipulative guy with no hope for any financial security in the future because of his record. And here’s a woman with a 401(k) and a house and a car. He gravitates to her and they fall in love. He moves in and they start drinking together. He beats her and she calls the cops. The cops drop the charges. She takes him back. He asks her to marry him and they get engaged, get into a fight three weeks later and he beats her to death.
As found on a website called A.A.R.M.E.D. with Facts (Against Abuse in Recovery Meetings Eliminate the Danger), many women anonymously share their story regarding encounters with sexual predators in AA.
It seems that the best way to for women to protect themselves in AA is to understand how a sexual predator targets its victims. As described by an article entitled “Marked for Mayhem” (Psychology Today) “Criminals, like their victims, come in all varieties, but researchers have found that they don’t choose their victims randomly. There’s a reason FBI agents begin crime investigations by creating profiles of victims. It’s because the identity of victims—particularly if there are several victims with differing characteristics—helps investigators determine whether a criminal is targeting a specific kind of person or choosing victims opportunistically.”
As an alternative to AA, there are a number of recovery groups for women with alcohol and/or substance abuse issues, whose members are NOT court-mandated to be there. They include SOS Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Smart Recovery and Rational Recovery.