Northern California SIA Meetings!

Local Meetings:

This list got very out of date; I have found that it is better to consult the SIA website directly by clicking here for Survivors of Incest Anonymous meetings in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Milpitas, and near Hayward, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, Marin, Berkeley, et cetera.

Here's the short version of the message to the right:
In my experience, the 12 steps are essential to our recovery from all kinds of abuse.
SIA no longer really uses nor understands the 12 steps, nor the 12 traditions or 12 concepts of service, which contain so many of the principles essential to our recovery.

I recommend exploring COSA, for anyone affected by compulsive sexual behavior - including many, many, many sexual abuse survivors - or, possibly, another relationships/families program like Adult Children of Alcoholic and other Dysfunctional Families, Codependents Anonymous, et cetera. If you find that the emotional or psychological effects of the abuse are overwhelming, Emotions Anonymous has been extremely helpful to many people.

(I do NOT recommend Incest Survivors Anonymous, should you happen to come across it -- yes, they are a different fellowship! I don't have personal experience in their meetings. But my interactions with them via phone calls, their email newsletters, and their website have suggested to me that they are an extremely troubled, very fear-based fellowship with a serious lack of boundaries, none of which is great for the healing survivor.)

This area used to contain information about the 12 steps and 12 traditions of Survivors of Incest Anonymous. However, they have changed their steps and traditions so many times that I have no hope of keeping up! Visit their website for the current versions, and to learn more about their definition for "incest" and any membership requirements.

Please email the Northern California contact person with any questions about meetings in Northern California, or check the SIA website for in-person, phone, and online meeting listings.

    The Long Version (check the left side of the page for the short version)


    If that piece to your left, about how many times SIA has changed the steps and traditions, sounds ominous, perhaps it should. As a survivor of sexual and ritual abuse who has been in recovery from both for nearly 10 years at the time of this writing, and who has recovered entirely through the magic of 12-step programs, I can attest that the 12 steps do work on these issues. Extremely well.

    Taking the simple actions described by the 12 steps is an effective and powerful way to be relieved of the effects of all different kinds of abuse. The steps attack the rage, depression, low-self-esteem, and other effects directly. That's why they are used for so many different problems that for many of us are also effects of abuse (such as overeating, anorexia, sex addiction, and codependency) -- because they work on the roots of the problem.

    Unfortunately, SIA literature does not offer clear directions on how to work the steps. The best place I have found is in their source, the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. Another excellent source is to listen to, or read transcriptions of, the "Joe and Charlie" tapes. (You can download recordings of Joe & Charlie for free, legally, by clicking here, and read a transcription here, although I haven't checked to see if that particular transcript is from the same date as that particular recording.)

    Joe and Charlie were 12-step members who studied the steps and the Big Book very deeply: these tapes are recordings of funny and touching presentations they did which explain the program very clearly. And yes, they even mention sexual abuse at one point.

    If it were just that SIA did not have great literature on step work, I would probably still be a member. I considered leaving the program several years ago because they had revised the 12 steps at least twice and were attempting to do it again - this time, without the input of the meetings. They got that input anyway, and the changes made to the steps were somewhat mitigated.

    That was troubling enough. I left entirely when the Board changed the traditions. For those who don't know, the 12 Traditions are the guidelines that keep our meetings safe. After more than 25 years of trouble-free existence, the Board decided that SIA must begin excluding anybody who had been a perpetrator, even if they were sexual abuse survivors. Their arguments sort of called on the traditions - claiming that if somebody talked in a meeting about perpetration, it would violate tradition 1 by potentially making people feel unsafe, tradition 3 by being off-topic (which is not what tradition 3 means or is used for)... and my favorite, that there was evidence (which they didn't describe) that meetings that allowed perpetrators or discussion of perpetration were losing members, and that somehow this meant that allowing these things affected SIA as a whole, and that therefore the decision must be taken out of the meetings' own hands.

    They didn't change the wording of the traditions to do this; they just violated them, in my opinion, by taking decisions out of the meetings' hands, and turning away survivors who had perpetrated even though "The only requirement for membership is that you are a victim of child sexual abuse and that you desire to recover from it."

    They did change them subsequently; the 7th tradition no longer states that SIA is self-supporting, declining outside contributions. Now it just says that it strives "to be fully self-supporting and will not accept contributions that compromise SIA's autonomy or mission."

    Most significantly, their 1st tradition now says, "Our common welfare should come first; personal progress for the greatest number depends on SIA unity." The change is that originally - and still, in all other 12-step programs - we aren't promised "personal progress," but "personal recovery."

    Anyone who is familiar with 12-step programs will see at once what a terrible problem these things are; anyone who isn't should just know that if you want recovery, you need a 12-step program that is full of people who already have it, who can explain how they got it. You need what everyone else has: simple action steps that have been tested for 75+ years and that have been found to work for everyone who thoroughly works them. What SIA offers instead is a program that constantly changes things based on what they are afraid people will think or say or do. Which is codependency; which, in my experience, is the biggest, most consistent result of abuse.