A Brief History of SIA
Twenty-nine Years of Offering Recovery to Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
One January evening in 1982, at a kitchen table in
Baltimore, three women sat together and spoke about the unspeakable: child sexual abuse, perpetrated by family members (father, mother, brother-in-law) on each woman decades before. Using the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step recovery model, they admitted to being powerless over their histories, asked for help from a Higher Power so that they might make peace with their past, and began to heal and thrive in the present. They began casting off shame and self blame, living their lives unencumbered by the legacy of abuse. That evening, a new mutual-help, 12-Step program was born: Survivors of Incest Anonymous.
Now -- in houses of worship, medical centers and other meeting places located around the country and in a dozen foreign countries -- women and men 18 years through their 70s and beyond sit together and speak about the unspeakable: their own reality of child sexual abuse. Guided by the 12 suggested Steps of the program, everything said in the meetings and member to member are held in strict confidence. Survivors facilitate the groups; mental health professionals do not work in the meetings and SIA is not intended to replace therapy or any other professional service when needed.
There is no typical SIA member profile; members are of all racial, ethnic, religious and political backgrounds, with varying marital statuses, sexual orientations, and degrees of ability/disability. The abusers in their lives may be any family member, family friends, clergy, another child or teenager, or anyone who betrayed the child victim’s innocence and trust. We define incest very broadly. Many of those who attend SIA meetings share their struggles and find hope and healing with self-confidence, self-esteem, explosive anger, depression, addictions and compulsions, perfectionism, isolation, thoughts of suicide, and troubled relationships with family, spouses/partners, and authority figures.
As SIA celebrates its 29th birthday, it looks back on an exciting history: a 1984 letter published in “Dear Abby” mentioned SIA and caught the attention of a national audience. Members of SIA made anonymous appearances on the national talk shows of the 1980s and 1990s including “Donahue,” “Geraldo,” “Sallie Jessie Raphael,” and “People Are Talking,” to name a few.
SIA’s headquarters, the World Service Office (WSO), now in
Harford County, Maryland, operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. It helps survivors to connect with one another and carries a message of recovery to those who still suffer. The WSO operates a telephone information line staffed exclusively by survivors, makes referrals to local SIA groups, assists individuals in starting new groups; provides literature, a quarterly newsletter, and other helpful materials developed by survivors for survivors; offers a pen-pal program, and manages a speakers’ bureau. For several years, SIA speakers have presented workshops at the Maryland Governor’s annual Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.
NOTE: If you like a copy to send to a local newspaper or TV show introducing them to SIA, feel free to print it off our website or send us a SASE to the PO Box.