The definition is simple – someone with more time preys on a newcomer, usually for sex and/or sometimes for money. Generally it’s men who hustle women newcomers, but sometimes it’s the women who hustle men. Of course, gay, lesbians, etc. have been known to do the same.
It’s an example of how one person has power over another and exercises it in a detrimental way.
The term came to mind recently when I came across the only recent and complete story I found is at ProPublica – Twelve Steps to Danger: How Alcoholics Anonymous Can Be a Playground for Violence-Prone Members by Gabrielle Glaser who has been getting a lot of press recently around the subject and who has written a book called Her Best-Kept Secret – apparently about why women drink.
The article tells of a 31-year-old woman who 13th Stepped and eventually murdered by her abuser. The article goes on to point to at least two stories of girls under the age of 18 being 13th stepped and abused. It’s pretty shocking.
Groups & sponsors can help
Of course, getting statistics on 13th Stepping is nigh on to impossible – but there are some things 12 Step groups can do.
In 2001, the General Service Board in Australia published a simple set of guidelines. In 2002, well over 3,000 AA groups in Great Britain adopted a Code of Conduct (page down to page 63) that strongly suggests members intervene, stop and if necessary report abusive 13th Stepping.
To date, AA’s General Service Board has opted to assert they have no control over any meeting and leave it at that.
Which doesn’t mean individual meetings can’t address the problem, perhaps by adopting one or the other guidelines listed above and distributing them. Sponsors can also guide women away from such predators and help them report them to the proper authorities.
Groups can also bring up the topic for consideration at annual conventions.
Silence doesn’t do anyone any good
One of the things that needs to happen is for people to bring up the topic of 13th Stepping – at meetings, with sponsors and in the coffee klatches after so many meetings. The saying, “we’re only as sick as our secrets” certainly applies here.
Sure, talking about it isn’t easy – but it’s in the talking about it that the solution will be found. When one member warns another about a 13th Stepper, when folks keep watch over under-aged members, much of the potential for abuse will be eliminated. Just because we’re anonymous doesn’t mean we have to put up with predators in our midst – sexual predators or predators of any other type.
Your turn: What’s been your experience, if any, around 13th Stepping? Do you believe the groups can or should have a roll in warning members, at least in a general sense? What about the national organizations? What are your thoughts on this topic? Tell us in comments.
If you liked this post, share it with your network – it helps. Thanks!