WHO CAN ATTEND A MEETING?
Generally, meetings are divided into types: open and closed. Open Meetings are meetings everyone can attend, whether or not they are survivors. If you have a therapist, family members or friends who provide support for you, they are “pro-survivors” and are welcome at open meetings. Most SIA meetings are closed. Closed meetings are for survivors of child sexual abuse only.
REGARDING PERPETRATORS: The SIA membership has decided that anyone who has willingly sexually abused any child should not attend SIA meetings. Our primary purpose is to support the survivor. SIA is NOT the place to work on perpetration issues or questions. There are other programs and avenues available for survivors with perpetration issues.
NOTE: As children, some survivors were forced, emotionally or physically, to abuse other children. Because they were forced, the SIA community does not consider such survivors to be true perpetrators. The adult(s) who staged the abuse were 100% responsible.
You are welcome here even if you have no clear memories of the abuse. You will not be discounted because what happened to you seems “minor.” You will not be rejected because your abuse seems too horrible. If you feel you belong here, we believe you and welcome you.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE PROOF - OR DON’T REMEMBER THE ABUSE?
No one here needs more than your word that you survived the abuse. Most of us were children when the abuse occurred and often do not remember it fully. If you believe you were a victim or have reason to think you were, then we believe and welcome you. That’s enough to get started. However, this is not a court to deal with your perpetrator. This is a spiritual support group where you join other survivors in fellowship towards health, healing and happiness.
HOW DO I INTRODUCE MYSELF?
In this anonymous program, we use only first names (and occasionally last initials). It’s your choice how you introduce yourself. Most people will begin speaking by saying “I’m (first name) and I’m an incest survivor.” This lets others know your name helps you to break the silence you’ve kept for so long. If you would like to use a pseudonym, do so. Trust will develop as you recover further and get to know us. Some will add “I was sexually abused by my father, mother, uncle, baby sitter, etc., and neglected by (whomever).”
WHO IS IN CHARGE?
No one is really in charge. Leadership in SIA is shared by all. The leader of a meeting is a survivor like you, who is willing to read the format and facilitate the meeting. S/He can be the leader for a given period of time. This is called a service position. Leadership and service positions rotate, giving everyone an opportunity to contribute to the meeting. Other service positions may include the Treasurer, Liaison, Secretary, Regional Intergroup/World Service Representative, Set-up and Clean-up helpers, etc.
WHAT DOES SIA COST?
There is NO COST for meetings. We do have group expenses such as rent, literature, outreach, and donations to the World Service Office, Regional Intergroups etc., which vary from one meeting to the next. Our Seventh Tradition states that we are self-supporting. We take up a collection for the Seventh Tradition but no one is obligated to contribute. Through these collections, our bills are paid and contributions are made to the Regional Intergroups where they have been formed and to World Service Office for updating the Directory of Meetings, literature production and distribution, information phone lines, offices and speakers bureaus.
DO I HAVE TO SPEAK?
No. There are many formats of meetings: speaker meetings, where a speaker does most of the talking; topic meetings, where discussion is open but directed toward a specific topic and all are invited to participate and Literature meetings where some official SIA literature is read and discussed. At a small number of meetings, people are called on to speak, but even then a member can ALWAYS pass on that option. At other meetings the floor is open to anyone wishing to speak, but no one is called on. You can choose not to speak. If you are in a group that rotates the discussion and you do not wish to speak, just say “I pass” so that the next person can begin. No one has to speak at discussion meetings, but everyone is encouraged to speak. As survivors, we have had to keep the sexual abuse secret so many of us come in uncomfortable talking about it. That's fine. Listen, keep coming, and give yourself time.
You may find that, as a result of the abuse, even though the abuse ended long ago, it still affects your life today. Some of us come to this program full of anger at our perpetrators and hurting. We find that by breaking the silence and telling the secret, and then talking about the things in our lives that were and still are affected, we can begin a long, slow, glorious process of recovery. Generally, in a discussion meeting each person (time permitting) is given an opportunity to speak. Some groups allow cross-talk (brief, positive feedback), but no advice is ever given. We encourage you to be respectful of the number of survivors that are sharing the meeting time. Some large meetings may time the sharing of each member to assure time for every member.
When you do share, it is suggested that you limit your comments to your own experiences. Keeping our sharing focused on our own experiences, using “I” statements (first person), and avoiding political issues and outside causes, keeps us in line with our primary purpose. Generally, if you're a newcomer or an old-comer in crisis and have a burning need to get something off your chest, it is a good idea to speak early in the meeting so that there is time to reflect on the issue. Most groups will begin and end at a specified time. As survivors we often have problems with limits and work on these issues. If your questions don’t get answered in the meeting, ask someone to speak with you, get phone numbers of other members afterward. Many things will only begin to make sense given time. Just keep coming back.