We need ITAA to be a safe place for us all to recover. Our first tradition states that our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on ITAA unity. Comments or behavior of an aggressive, sexual, or discriminatory nature directed towards other members are not appropriate in ITAA. If we believe another member has acted inappropriately, here are some suggestions for actions we can take:
Actions we can take to respond when an incident occurs during a meeting:
We can unmute and speak aloud that we feel somebody has acted inappropriately. We may invoke the traditions or the line in the meeting script that states that “comments or behavior of an aggressive, sexual, or discriminatory nature directed towards other members are not appropriate.”
We can ask the person to stop the inappropriate behavior:
“I feel uncomfortable because of what was just said/done, and I want to ask that members refrain from making comments of an aggressive, sexual, or discriminatory nature towards other members. We could also discuss this more after the meeting, if anyone would like to.”
If we are nervous about speaking up directly, we can send a private message to the chair or another member in the meeting about the incident and ask if they could speak up and address it. We can also ask them to repeat the section of the script that states “Comments or behavior of an aggressive, sexual, or discriminatory nature directed towards other members are not appropriate in the meeting.”
If we are uncertain whether a particular comment is inappropriate, we can ask that a group conscience be held.
If somebody is sending us private messages during a meeting that are inappropriate, we may respond with a private message to set boundaries and ask that the member stop messaging us.
“Your messages are making me uncomfortable. Would you please stop sending these private messages?”
Actions we can take to respond in the moment when an incident occurs outside of a meeting (such as on a phone call, while exchanging messages, or in person).
We can let the other person know that their comments or behavior are inappropriate and make us uncomfortable, and we can request that they refrain from similar comments or behavior in the future.
We can take distance from the other person by leaving the area, ending the call, or not responding to their messages. This can help us take the space we need to get some breathing room and gain clarity on the situation.
Actions we can take after an incident to gain clarity:
As a first step, we can speak to somebody we confide in and trust. If the incident happened during a meeting, this could be the group chair or a trusted fellow member who was present in the meeting. We may also reach out to our sponsor, therapist, spiritual advisor, or a close friend for additional support and guidance.
Writing a 10th-step inventory can help us gain clarity and identify the next right action. A 10th-step inventory often consists of writing answers to the following questions: What happened? What basic needs were affected? What emotions are we feeling? What was our part (if any)? And are there any actions we may need to take? It’s recommended that we read our 10th-step writing to another ITAA member whom we trust.
We could also seek guidance from our higher power (for example, through prayer or meditation).
Actions we can take after an incident to address the behavior:
If we feel comfortable, we could reach out directly to the person who acted inappropriately, letting them know how their behavior made us feel, and make a request that they change their behavior moving forward.
We could ask another trusted member to help us in addressing the person who made us uncomfortable, to make them aware of the effect of their actions, and to request that the behavior is not repeated towards us or others. This trusted member might speak to the other person on our behalf, or join the conversation as a neutral third party.
In reaching out to a member who has acted inappropriately, it can be helpful to address them face-to-face or over the phone, rather than through text message, as this tends to help avoid miscommunication. In other cases, messaging or email might be the better option. When somebody is acting inappropriately, it can be the case that they don’t realize how their behavior is making others feel. It has often happened that when we inform the person of the effects their actions are having and make a request that they change their behavior, they have apologized and sought to change.
In some cases, it may be best to temporarily cut off contact with the member who is making us uncomfortable. Speaking with another member may help us to make that decision.
Our 12th tradition states that anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. When addressing inappropriate behavior or discussing events with other members, we find that it is best to maintain anonymity and confidentiality by avoiding the use of affected members’ names and other identifying information.
Anonymity is not a cloak for protecting criminal behavior. ITAA members are also “citizens of the world,” and as citizens we are not above the law.* In some cases, and after consulting with other members, we may consider taking legal action.
Actions a group can take to respond to inappropriate behavior
It’s important to talk about issues of safety before they arise and establish a protocol for how the group would like to handle inappropriate behavior, should it occur. In line with our traditions, a group conscience is the best forum through which to hold such a discussion. We encourage members to bring this item forward at their group’s next regular business meeting.
Here are some ideas that groups might include in a protocol for how to respond to inappropriate behavior:
- When inappropriate behavior occurs, the chair can read a statement out to the whole meeting, for example: “We need ITAA to be a safe place for us all to recover. Our first tradition states that our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on ITAA unity. Comments or behavior of an aggressive, sexual, or discriminatory nature directed towards other members are not appropriate in ITAA.”
- Groups may establish a service role to support meeting participants who have been affected by inappropriate behavior, and/or to address those who have acted inappropriately.
- Groups may consider a two- or three- strike policy for people who repeatedly act out inappropriate behavior. As a last resort, the disruptive member may be asked to stop attending meetings for a period of time.
If your group comes up with other ideas and would like to share them to be included in these suggestions, please reach out through the contact form.
If an incident of inappropriate behavior occurs and our group has not already established a protocol for how to handle it, the group could hold a group conscience to discuss how to respond to the situation, potentially asking the offending party to step out of the meeting.
Being subjected to inappropriate behavior or supporting others who have been subjected to inappropriate behavior can be emotionally challenging, and affected members may find it helpful to practice self-care. We might go for a walk, take a bath or a shower, spend time with a close friend, practice self-compassion, and focus on eating and sleeping well. It’s okay to slow down and focus on our own needs. We might also seek out further support from professional mental health services.
If somebody has asked us for help in addressing another member’s behavior, we can consult with others for guidance or reference this guide.
Keeping ITAA safe for everyone
In ITAA, we keep our shares focused on our own personal experience. We avoid commenting on or singling out other individual members, either directly or indirectly. In addition, what might feel like flirting to one member can feel like harassment to another. We are in ITAA to recover from our addiction, and we need to carefully protect the safety of our groups to allow everyone to recover.
If somebody has let us know that our behavior or words were inappropriate, we can reflect on the situation and consider what changes we can make to avoid repeating the inappropriate behavior moving forward. If we have caused harm, it’s advisable to make amends after consulting with an experienced member of ITAA. It’s important to get feedback before making amends in order to avoid causing further harm.
*For further reference and reading: Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare