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Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA) – 12 Step Program

What is Survivors of Incest Anonymous?

Survivors of Incest Anonymous is a 12-step recovery program that is for individuals who are recovering from the consequences of childhood sexual abuse. It is a program designed for people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and more, as long as they are over the age of 18. Anyone who has experienced childhood sexual abuse is welcome, regardless of what type of abuse they experienced; nobody is judged on whether or not their abuse was “too severe” or “wasn’t bad enough.” While other groups can be recommended for other sexual abuse trauma, Survivors of Incest Anonymous focuses on survivor issues only.

When was it founded?

The organization began in January 1982 when three women had gathered together to discuss the childhood sexual abuse they had experienced, which was done to them by a member of their families. Because they had experience and success with other 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, they decided to utilize the 12-step model to begin healing themselves and moving beyond their histories. From that day forward, they had formed the group of Survivors of Incest Anonymous.

Today, the group has meetings available all over the United States and in over a dozen countries worldwide. The group’s most notable mention was in a “Dear Abby” letter that was published in 1984, which mentioned Survivors of Incest Anonymous. After receiving attention from a national audience, during the 1980s and 1990s, members from the group began making anonymous appearances on many popular talk shows, including “Geraldo,” “Sallie Jessie Raphael,” and more. As new members join the organization year after year, more literature is developed including “12 Steps & 12 Traditions,” “The Recovery Process,” and more. Along with the literature already published, Survivors of Incest Anonymous is slowly working to publish their own “Big Book,” similar to the one available in Alcoholics Anonymous.

How does Survivors of Incest Anonymous work?

One of the most important things for existing and new members of the program to understand is that they are never alone and what has happened to them in the past is not their fault. The goal of Survivors of Incest Anonymous is to help guide individuals who have survived childhood sexual trauma onto the road of recovery to begin their healing process. Without dealing with the issues that stem from childhood sexual abuse, individuals are more likely to continue developing problems or experience worse symptoms from problems they may already be experiencing.

How is “Incest” Defined in Survivors of Incest Anonymous?

Because “incest” is defined very broadly in the program, it’s important for newcomers to know that it does not have to be a family member who was the perpetrator during the abuse. Perpetrators are considered anyone who has betrayed the child victim’s trust or violated their innocence, which can include close family friends, members of the church and more. Childhood sexual abuse is also not limited to penetration; it can include physical and verbal behaviors of any kind.

SIA Sponsorship

Another huge benefit of the program for members is to obtain a sponsor. A sponsor is a longtime member who has worked the steps or is actively working the steps and is involved in the program. Working with a sponsor can help members find a person to confide in one-on-one, start building a healthy and trusting relationship with another individual, and share what is going on in their lives that they may not feel comfortable sharing in meetings. Sponsors can provide information about the program, answer any questions, and share tools of recovery or possible solutions that they may have for newcomers, so that they can begin their healing process.

Why is Survivors of Incest Anonymous effective?

Although it may seem like there is nobody to talk to before coming into Survivors of Incest Anonymous, finding other people struggling with the same issues can help members build a strong support system to recover successfully. Handling survivor issues on their own is not recommended and while health professionals like counselors or therapists can help to some extent, Survivors of Incest Anonymous is empowering and gives members the courage they need to begin healing and changing unhealthy behaviors. Instead of forcing members to deal with the consequences of their childhood sexual abuse forever, individuals are encouraged to begin working on the issues and start living as survivors instead of victims.

How it Helps

Survivors of Incest Anonymous gives members a place to discuss their issues with explosive anger, depression, isolation, thoughts of suicide and more. For many members, discussing what has happened to them or how they are feeling now may have seemed impossible, even with a spouse or family member. Because of their inability to trust and share their feelings with others who may not understand, they began experiencing many troubled relationships. With the focus on recovery in the program, members are able to feel empowered and begin letting their secrets out, which is a crucial part of the recovery process. For many individuals in the past, they were forced to remain quiet about their past; this is not the case in Survivors of Incest Anonymous. Discussing the abuse and how it has impacted their lives is one of the few ways that members can begin the process of healing and recovery.

Some of the other issues that can arise for victims of childhood sexual abuse include drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual dysfunction, suicidal thoughts, inability to trust, phobias, and problems with intimacy. Until these issues are dealt with in the program, individuals can often begin feeling comfortable as the victim, try to take the blame on themselves or even defend their perpetrators, which are all unhealthy coping mechanisms. Through experience, strength and hope, members can begin to find new, healthy ways to cope, start sharing their stories with others and eventually, learn they are capable of healthy and loving relationships.

FAQs about Survivors of Incest Anonymous

Does Survivors of Incest Anonymous cost money?

There are no costs, dues or fees for membership to the program of Survivors of Incest Anonymous. The only requirement for membership is that you are a victim of childhood sexual abuse, that you desire to recover from it, and that you have not abused any child as an adult. The organization is fully self-supporting through their own contributions. Members are never obligated to contribute monetarily, but are encouraged to give what they can, when they can.

Is Survivors of Incest Anonymous religious?

The fellowship of Survivors of Incest Anonymous is not religious in any way, shape or form. Although members are encouraged to find a higher power when working the steps of the program, it does not have to be called God or associated with any religious deity. It is important for members to identify their own concept of a higher power, as long as they understand that they are not the higher power themselves. The program is based on a spiritual foundation, not a religious one.

Where do I find a Survivors of Incest Anonymous meeting?

There are meetings available all over the world, which can be found on the meeting directory page on the official website. While some physical meetings are currently unavailable, it is important to call ahead or just check the website for virtual or telephone meetings. For individuals who want to find a local meeting or see what is available virtually, they can find the directory here.

What are the 12 promises of Survivors of Incest Anonymous?

Like other 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Survivors of Incest Anonymous has 12 promises that individuals begin to see coming true as they start working the steps, attending meetings and reading the literature of the program. Although some of these promises come true slower than others, many members begin to see positive changes over time.

1. We will finally know freedom, happiness and serenity.

2. We will remember the past at last and walk freely away from it with our child intact.

3. We will comprehend the word “safety.”

4. We will know sleep without fear.

5. No matter how terrible the incest, nor how devastating its effects, we will recover and become whole again.

6. That feeling of hopelessness and self-condemnation will disappear.

7. We will lose our sense of toxic shame and gain self-respect.

8. Revulsion will slip away.

9. Our perpetrators will no longer have any power over us.

10. Fear of love and sexuality will leave us.

11. We will intuitively know how to handle intimacy.

12. We will suddenly realize that we are alive, lovely, whole, sane and safe.


12 Steps of Survivors of Incest Anonymous

1. We admitted we were powerless over the abuse, the effects of the abuse, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a loving Higher Power, greater than ourselves, could restore hope, healing and sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a loving Higher Power, as we understood that to be.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves, the abuse and its effects on our lives. We had no more secrets.

5. Admitted to a loving Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being, our strengths and weaknesses.

6. Were entirely ready to have a loving Higher Power help us remove all the debilitating consequences of the abuse, and became willing to treat ourselves with respect, compassion, and acceptance.

7. Humbly and honestly asked a loving Higher Power to remove the unhealthy and self-defeating consequences stemming from the abuse.

8. Made a list of all the people we may have harmed (of our own free will), including ourselves and our Inner Child(ren), and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people where ever possible, except when to do so would result in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual harm to ourselves or others.

10. Continued to take responsibility for our own recovery, and when we found ourselves behaving in patterns still dictated by the abuse, promptly admitted it. When we succeed, we promptly enjoy it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with ourselves and a loving Higher Power as we understood that to be, asking only for knowledge of its will for us and the power and courage to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other survivors and practice these principles in all our endeavors.


12 Traditions of Survivors of Incest Anonymous

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal progress for the greatest number depends upon unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one authority: a loving Higher Power, as this one may express her/himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for membership is that you are a victim of childhood sexual abuse, that you desire to recover from it, and that you have not abused any child as an adult.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting another group or SlA as a whole.

5. Each SIA group has but one primary purpose: to carry its message to the survivor of childhood sexual abuse who still suffers.

6. An SIA group ought never to endorse, finance, or lend the SIA name to any outside enterprise lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary objective.

7. SIA strives to be fully self-supporting and will not accept contributions that compromise SIA’s autonomy or mission.

8. Survivors of Incest Anonymous Twelve Step work should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. Survivors of Incest Anonymous groups, as such, ought never be organized, but they may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Survivors of Incest Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the SIA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. SIA public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films and television.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

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