Thursday, November 19, 2009
I was talking to a sponsee today about how much resentment he has that his girlfriend who is in AA is being hit on by old timers in the program. We talked a bit about "Thirteenth-stepping" which is a euphemistic term used to refer to those people who target new, more vulnerable members (typically women) for dates or sex.
The sponsee thinks that there is a lot of sexual predation in AA. I read that a research study described the frequency of various 13th-stepping experiences in a sample of women involved in AA. Fifty-five women, aged 17-72 years, completed an anonymous survey to describe their experiences with 13th-stepping by men in AA. Results showed that at least 50% of the participants had at least occasionally experienced seven of the thirteen 13th-stepping behaviors listed in the survey. Also, compared to women who had never attended a female-only AA group, women who had attended such groups reported more 13th-stepping experiences from their attendance at coed groups. Two of the study participants volunteered that men they met in AA had raped them.
The character defects that show themselves aren't really surprising to me. I have been to enough bars to see that drinking and trying to hook up are coexisting behaviors. And when the booze is put down, the bar room behavior may continue. Character defects, some more glaring than others, abound in each of us. How vulnerable people are though when they first come into a recovery program and that people take advantage of that is something I find pretty sick.
I don't think that this behavior is unique to AA by any means. I remember reading an article in which men looking for easy sex were told to go troll Al-Anon meetings. The idea was that the women there were needy and would give them the hottest sex of their lives if shown the slightest affection. Vulnerability hurts enough on its own. Hopefully, there is some kind of "gatekeeper" who sees this action happening (such as a sponsor) and gently guides the person to safer waters away from the sharks.
I suggested to the sponsee that just because people belong to 12 step programs doesn't mean that they are cured of alcoholism and all that it entails. (I think of Bill W. as an example of one who traded one addiction for another). It just means that the masks being worn may be changed frequently.