Many S-Anon groups which find it challenging to meet face-to-face due to various factors are considering a temporary or permanent change in their meeting format from face-to-face to a virtual voice and/or video meeting. This has created lots of questions, decisions, and stress as groups try to find ways to continue to hold their meetings.

The following information, including questions from members and related excerpts drawn from the S-Anon/S-Ateen Service Manual (SSSM), may provide information to help you and your local group determine the best way to meet the needs of your members. The SSSM guidelines are based on the experience, strength, and hope of S-Anon members within the fellowship and can be found on the S-Anon Member Site at member.sanon.org. Note that S-Anon does not offer advice or recommendations on what your group should do.

The following topics address the most common questions and concerns that groups have shared with the World Service Office (WSO) since March 2020 and include results collected from an S-Anon group survey that the Regional Trustees facilitated in July.  Participation in this survey was greatly appreciated.

Topics:

  • How Can Our Group Make Decisions?
  • Where and How Can We Meet?
  • How Do We Address Meeting Safety and Anonymity during the Meetings?
  • Who Can Attend Our Meetings?
  • How Do We Handle Finances, 7th Tradition Contributions, and Literature Distribution?
  • How Can We Attract and Help Newcomers?

How Can Our Group Make Decisions?

Each S-Anon group is autonomous and has the ability to make decisions itself using the tool of a group conscience and the guidance of Traditions Two and Four. The most common way a group makes decisions is by a group conscience. Tradition Two explains the benefits of the Group Conscience as a spiritual tool and the SSSM has a section called “Group Decision Making” in Part 1.

Tradition Four is the guide for autonomy at the group level. Groups can make decisions about many things as long as those decisions do not have an effect on the local S-Anon community, other S-Anon groups or S-Anon as a whole. See the S-Anon writings on the Traditions found on the S-Anon website, www.sanon.org.

Each S-Anon group can use a group conscience, and the help of a Higher Power, to determine how to offer meetings for the common welfare of the group as a whole. Each S-Anon group determines when and how often a group conscience will be held. Many groups hold a monthly business and/or group conscience meeting to discuss matters of importance to the group. Often these meetings occur following the regularly scheduled S-Anon meeting.

Questions to consider:

  • How will we let our members know that there will be a group conscience? (Some groups announce an upcoming group conscience for 3 meetings prior to the actual group conscience.)
  • Will our group conscience follow the regular S-Anon meeting or be a special meeting?
  • How often do we want to hold a group conscience (to address other issues as they arise)?

SSSM Reference: Part 1: How S-Anon and S-Ateen Groups Work, Group Making Decisions

Where and How Can We Meet?

Many groups are having to decide on the logistics of holding their meetings, especially since in-person options may be limited, or the meeting room owner may have new restrictions and/or undue financial requirements. S-Anon has no opinion on where or how a group meets since that is a decision made by an autonomous local group.

Many groups have begun to use audio or video conferencing services, some of which are free and some which charge a monthly fee. Again, S-Anon does not endorse any specific electronic methods. In addition, some groups are considering a hybrid-type meeting, where some people meet in person and others attend that meeting either by phone or videoconferencing. All these methods are examples of the possibilities local groups may use. S-Anon is not suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach. Each local group, through a group conscience, will need to decide what works in the best interest of the group as a whole.

If a face-to-face meeting has lost its location and the group chooses not to relocate, is unable to find another location, or chooses to not create a virtual meeting, the group needs to let the WSO know that the group is no longer gathering so they do not refer inquirers to a defunct group. For S-Anon members whose group has closed, current phone and virtual S-Anon meetings can be found at [email protected]

Whatever decision is made regarding when and how a local group will meet, please contact the WSO to provide an update on the group’s information and meeting arrangements. The form can be found here.

Questions to consider:

  • What kind of meeting does our group want to have? Online, phone, videoconferencing, hybrid?
  • Will this be a temporary or permanent decision?
  • Is there a member willing to bring and set up their own equipment for a hybrid format?
  • Is there adequate cell and Internet service at the meeting location for a hybrid meeting to work?
  • Will the group need permission to use the facility WIFI and will there be an additional fee?
  • Will an adjustment to the meeting format need to be made to accommodate those in attendance electronically?
  • How can members attending electronically contribute to the 7th Tradition collection?
  • How often does our group want to revisit how and where to meet?
  • If face-to-face is permitted, how will our group handle any financial matters or restrictions that may be required by the facility or county?
  • How will our group cover the expenses for audio or videoconferencing, if they apply?
  • How does the group want to have their meeting information listed on the WSO website? Group name and time with generic group contact information, and/or also meeting access information?

SSSM Reference: Part 1: How S-Anon & S-Ateen Groups Work, Where Groups/Meetings are Held

How Do We Address Safety and Anonymity during the Meetings?

As stated in Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd edition, p. 43, “The principle of anonymity operates at several different levels. First, anonymity protects us as individuals, our fellowship as a whole, and our sexaholic family members or friends from public exposure and gossip.” However, phone meetings and videoconferencing present an entirely new set of potential challenges for safeguarding anonymity.

For safety in electronic meetings, it is important to keep in mind that anonymity includes much more than just seeing someone’s face. Anonymity also means that all our other identities and affiliations need to remain outside the meeting discussion. Members need to be mindful not to share last names and other identifying information when creating an electronic identity. This includes having an email address that contains a last name, a job title, etc.

In general, no matter the meeting type, there is a level of trust that S-Anon groups operate within when it comes to member anonymity. Members are reminded that who you see, what you hear, stays within the group.

Currently S-Anon has no service literature that addresses these issues, so each local group needs to consider how to protect anonymity in these environments. Many groups are customizing the S-Anon Meeting Format found in the SSSM and in Working the S-Anon Program to include a statement on anonymity and the guidelines created by the group to ensure member anonymity. The S-Anon Meeting Format can be downloaded for customization here on the S-Anon Member Site.

Questions to consider:

  • How do we inform our members about protecting their anonymity while using technology? Possible issues: should all members wear headphones? Be in a room at home separate from others? Turn on/off the video feature for videoconferencing? Disguise their name or phone number as it may appear on a videoconferencing screen? Should the recording feature be turned off for the video conference?
  • How do we prevent non-members from crashing an electronic meeting?
  • How do we share meeting information while safeguarding member anonymity?
  • If the group uses technology for virtual meetings, are there ways to protect access using a password?
  • What procedure will the group use if a non-S-Anon member joins a virtual meeting?
  • Will the local group require that a new member contact an established member to get the meeting information (rather than publishing the specifics on the S-Anon website)?
  • If the local group decides to return to face-to-face meetings, will there be additional physical safety requirements mandated by the facility, the county or the group conscience?

SSSM Reference: Part 1: How S-Anon & S-Ateen Groups Work, Anonymity

Who Can Attend Our Meetings?

S-Anon’s Tradition Three states “The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of sexaholism in a relative or friend.” Meetings, whether in-person or virtual, are a vital element of the S-Anon program, allowing members to share their experience, strength, and hope to solve common problems.  Our primary purpose is to help families of sexaholics.  This includes participation by S-Ateen members (ages 12 to 19), who are part of the S-Anon International Family Groups.  (For more information about S-Ateen participation, see the SSSM Appendix D Section titled, “Questions About Requirement for Membership.“)

S-Anon meetings have traditionally taken place face-to-face. However, technology makes it possible for those outside of a geographic area to participate in meetings. This may present issues related to Tradition Three for a local group if they want to limit attendance only to people in their geographical area or in another manner.

Each local group has the autonomy to determine if they will limit attendance to those in geographic proximity to the local meeting. Limiting attendance to only certain qualified S-Anon members may mean that WSO’s designation of the group will be changed from that of a regular S-Anon Group to that of a Special Meeting. (This difference in designation is more thoroughly described in the SSSM section titled: “Group/Meeting Types.”) If a virtual meeting is a short-term solution to adapt to temporarily not being able to meet face-to-face, and members intend to revert to a face-to-face meeting as soon as is reasonable, no action will be taken by the WSO to re-designate the meeting. If a group decides to permanently relocate to meet virtually and limit attendance to those in geographical proximity to the original face-to-face meeting, then the group might become a Special Meeting – meaning that it is not open to anyone who wants to attend. There are, however, other considerations a group in this situation can take into account before being designated a Special Meeting.

The S-Anon website displays meeting information in two different groupings: geographical (USA & Canada and International) and electronic (Phone & Virtual). Each group can choose to be listed either geographically under the group’s country and city or as an electronic meeting (or both). Each meeting by group conscience chooses what and how much information to post on the S-Anon website. Some meetings list a generic phone number or email for inquirers to contact in order to get meeting attendance specifics; others list the meeting attendance specifics directly on the website.

If a local group meets virtually and wishes to not attract members from outside their general area, they may choose to be listed only in the geographic grouping, and to list a generic phone number or email for inquirers to contact in order to get meeting attendance specifics. A group that chooses to be listed only geographically will tend to attract only those who are looking for meetings in that specific area, though to honor Tradition Three they will still welcome all inquirers who qualify for S-Anon. This meeting would only be considered a Special Meeting if they actively turned away anyone interested in attending because they did not meet a proximity criterion.

Questions to consider:

  • How does the group want to have their meeting information listed on the WSO website? Group name and time with generic group contact information, and/or also meeting access information?
  • How do we handle those who want to attend but would not normally participate if meetings were in person, while still honoring Tradition Three?

SSSM Reference: Part 1: How S-Anon & S-Ateen Groups Work, Group/Meeting Types

How Do We Handle Finances, 7th Tradition Contributions, and Literature Distribution?

Collecting contributions for the 7th Tradition and distributing literature is much easier during in-person meetings. The use of technology has added an extra layer of complexity to both of these items for phone and virtual meetings. Some groups have found ways of using technology to collect 7th Tradition contributions; others encourage individual members to contribute directly to the WSO on behalf of the meeting using the Group ID. Many groups have found innovative ways to distribute literature. These are decisions that a local group will need to discuss during a group conscience.

What about Liability Insurance? The WSO has received reports that some groups’ meeting locations will now require liability insurance before the space can be used again. In the event that a meeting space requires liability insurance, we encourage the group to investigate with local insurance agents regarding coverage availability.

There have been inquiries for S-Anon International Family Groups, Inc. to provide liability insurance for groups. Doing so would not be in accordance with S-Anon’s Twelve Traditions.

Tradition Four: “Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting another group or S-Anon or SA as a whole.”

Tradition Six: “Our Family Groups ought never endorse or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim…”

The primary purpose of the S-Anon WSO is to support our groups in matters of S-Anon recovery – providing information to members and groups, publishing and distributing literature, and otherwise carrying the message. Liability insurance is an outside issue which does not affect S-Anon as a whole and falls under decisions that groups make under their own autonomy when they choose where and when to hold meetings, and how to pay for meeting expenses.

Questions to consider:

  • How does the local group want to collect 7th Tradition monies? Are electronic options viable? How will the Special Appeals be handled? Individually or as a group?
  • Does every group member know what the group’s ID # is?
  • How will contributions be made to the Intergroup, if there is one?
  • Will the group distribute literature? Will each individual have to buy their own literature?

SSSM Reference: Part 1: How S-Anon & S-Ateen Groups Work, Group Finances

How Do We Attract and Welcome Newcomers?

It’s hard enough for a newcomer to attend an S-Anon meeting in person for the first time. Attending a phone or virtual meeting, without prior personal contact might be challenging. So, it is vitally important that local groups find ways to make this first contact easier for the newcomer.

There are many free resources for newcomers on the homepage of the S-Anon website. In addition, the Welcome Packet is available there for download and contains much of the same information found in the Newcomer Booklet, available for purchase through the S-Anon store.

Here are what some groups are doing to welcome newcomers:

  • A current member contacting the newcomer prior to their first meeting to share their story and to explain how meetings work:
  • The Serenity Prayer, standard meeting format and readings, topics for discussion, member sharing, 7th Tradition donation
  • Tools of the program: Twelve Steps, sponsorship, phone list, Conference Approved Literature (CAL) and how to find it
  • Meeting safety: anonymity/confidentiality, no crosstalk, appropriate sharing (focusing on self, no explicit details, no mention of specific religions, occupations, therapy, non-CAL)
  • Holding a newcomer session after the regular S-Anon meeting, and covering the above information
  • Recommending during the meeting that a newcomer attend 6 meetings to decide if S-Anon is for them
  • Providing a phone list via email after the meeting, and asking if they would like to be included
  • Asking the newcomer if they would like to be added to the group’s communications
  • Having an established member contact the newcomer a few days after the meeting to check in
  • Providing a hard copy of the Newcomer’s Booklet by postal mail, at a drop off point or in person
  • Pointing the newcomer to the S-Anon website, suggesting they watch the video, sign up for the blog, download the welcome packet.

Reference: Working the S-Anon Program, pg.107 – 111, Contacting Inquirers &, Sharing Experience Strength and Hope with Newcomers


 October 20, 2020

The WSO Update

The WSO Update is a monthly newsletter published by the World Service Office communicating activities of interest within the Fellowship.

You are now leaving the official website for S-Anon International Family Groups, Inc. This link is made available to provide information about local S-Anon & S-Ateen groups. By providing this link we do not imply review, endorsement or approval of the linked site. Thank you for visiting www.sanon.org. We hope that you have found the information you were seeking.

Deny
S-Anon International Family Groups