Hello, I am the GSR for an S.L.A.A. meeting. Since going on Zoom in March, we had a major security breach – a member’s ex-partner has been stalking her in the meeting. He seems to have compromised her computer and phone and to have gone so far as to hire someone to impersonate a newcomer to join the meeting so he could listen in and possibly record the meeting and the chat, where we had unfortunately been posting contact info. This came to light in a chaotic way during a meeting. As a result, we made the meeting private and changed all the meeting login info.
Several of us recommended our member get help from a domestic violence organization. However, we are still concerned about the security of our member’s devices, as she has not yet done the work needed to secure them. We have asked her not to join the meeting until she has a secure phone.
I am writing for advice on this as I don’t want to deny our member the opportunity to come to the meeting but it seems that our traditions recommend taking action for the safety of the greatest number of people, and their anonymity. Could you please advise us on best practices for online security and how to deal with this situation?
First and foremost, in most jurisdictions, stalking is a very serious crime that should be reported by the target of stalking to your local Police and, if not reported by the member his or herself, can be reported by anyone at the meeting. Our spiritual foundation, Anonymity (Tradition 12) never takes precedence over local laws. That point is made well elsewhere in SLAA materials.
Secondly, many members come to SLAA because they have difficult relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction (Tradition 3). Stalking is not uncommon in romantic obsession. Both persons involved in this situation would be equally welcomed in SLAA.
Codependency is also a trait shared by many sex and love addicts. In Service, I need to watch my desire to judge others members’ relationships and “leap to the rescue” of the victim and “punish” the perpetrator. Although an outside issue (Tradition 6), understanding the dynamics of toxic relationships described by Karpann as the Drama Triangle has been very helpful to my own recovery in SLAA.
I see little difference between online and face to face meetings. Online is arguably safer. Anyone determined to stalk them can follow him or her to a meeting, eavesdrop, bug the room or hire someone to attend the meeting to secretly record and take a photograph of the phone list.
It is extremely important we empower members to take responsibility for their own safety in a way that works well for them. Attending a different Zoom meeting under a pseudonym is one immediate solution.
Determining whether allegations of stalking are true or not is an outside matter. It is important our trusted servants remain neutral and objective. Applying the Traditions instead of my own (often uninformed!) opinions really helps me. Therefore, deciding who is the “victim” is an outside issue in which we should not get involved (Tradition 5).
In my area, this would be an urgent police matter. The complainant would make a report to the local police station and the police – not the complainant – would obtain an interim restraining order within one day or so. Sex and love addiction is a progressive disease that kills. Domestic violence including stalking is a matter taken very seriously.
Often in chaotic situations like this, the police (and court) decide on the facts that both parties should be subject to a restraining order blocking all contact with the other. Their addictive relationship poses a risk to both sex and love addicts and third parties (tragically, often children of one or both). The Court can order which meetings each is permitted to attend to keep them apart.
The good news is that SLAA has a solution that works and eventually, in my experience, it can be safe for the Court to lift restraining orders.
We can support our members to go No Contact, including helping them secure their phones, but in my experience, love addicts will only later unblock their Qualifier. They are not ready to withdraw from the drama and intensity of the addictive relationship, no matter how destructive. All we can do is love them and encourage them to keep coming back.
Of course, if there is a genuine threat of violence against any other member, the Group must take urgent action in group conscience to bring in the Police. For example, the police have powers to retrieve the list of member contact details, if that privacy breach is of real concern to the persons on that list.
I wish your Group well in determining the safest course of action.
Many of the questions we’ve received lately are about outside issues. We have no opinion on outside issues.
As urgent as it may seem, as frightening, as threatening, and as important as it may seem, we have no opinion. We have only one purpose — to carry the message of recovery. Anything else, everything else, is an outside issue.
The Traditions are suggestions that can guide us out of the darkness. They do not recommend action regarding group safety, group security, or even violent situations.
The group itself is autonomous and responsible. The group itself has the authority to govern its own affairs (even if it decides to ignore the Traditions). The group has every right to take action to address the safety and unity of the group. They have the right, the responsibility, the authority, and the duty. Whether we approve or disapprove is inconsequential.
I hope the group takes time to study the Traditions and the Concepts. I hope too they take appropriate action by calling the civil authorities when that’s called for. There are useful documents about safety from AA that are well worth reading.
I am aware of a similar situation that took place at a face to face meeting not long ago. One of the member’s partners hired a private detective to attend the meeting and record it. When it was revealed that this had happened, many were shocked and angry. The event was destructive to the meeting causing a number of members to stop attending. And yet the meeting has survived. I am reminded to be grateful for the meeting and my recovery rather than nurse my resentment over bad behavior.
I trust the Traditions and the Concepts to provide the guidance I need to live with others. And to guide our meetings as well. We can easily be distracted from our primary purpose. Outside issues are especially tempting. Let’s keep our focus on recovery. Let’s do our best to carry the message and not the mess.
This is a very difficult situation and I completely understand the strong response that the group has taken to finding out a stalker has been attending. And, I understand the group is trying to protect member anonymity, which is generally in keeping with Tradition Eleven.
However, by making the meeting private only and denying an active member access, it would seem to be in conflict with Tradition Five. Tradition Five states that our primary purpose is to help the suffering addict. Limiting and / or denying access would not appear to help the addict.
But, since Tradition Four indicates that each group is autonomous, it is very much a group level decision on how best to proceed.
My only suggestion is to consider utilizing Step Twelve when making the group decisions. Practicing the spiritual principles in all areas of our lives can be especially helpful in an emotionally charged situation such as this.