Survivors of Incest Anonymous 

We Define Incest Very Broadly


for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse

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12 Steps & 12 Traditions

We in Survivors of Incest Anonymous have learned to be creative, resourceful and courageous on our own behalf. In order to do this, we have need­ed to face the challenges that our victimization has placed before us.  We each do this in different ways. The Twelve Steps have helped many of us in this process.  We have learned to live more fully, not as vic­tims, but as survivors...

First Step Inventory

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the First Step. Our chances of changing our relationships with abusive persons and of being content with ourselves and our lives were very slim until we accepted the seriousness of the negative effect's childhood sexual abuse has had on our lives. To do this we made a written inventory of our powerlessness over the childhood sexual abuse experience and those who abused us.  We described the unmanageability of our lives.  In taking the First Step we used the following guidelines.  

4th Step Inventory

The Fourth Step issues a challenge to look at our lives, not only in the context of the sexual abuse we survived, but also in the context of our daily lives and the interwoven family chaos of emotional, physical and spiritual abuse that we grew up in.  Step Four followed naturally from the first three steps:  once we stopped attempting to control others in order to avoid experiencing suppressed emotions and memories and began to trust again, we were better able to take a good look at ourselves.  It was only here within ourselves, that we could make some real changes.

Suicide Prevention

In denial and in early recovery from sexual child abuse, the raw, often unfocused inner pain may feel unending and unendurable, and we may feel hopeless or overwhelmed by the task ahead of us in healing ourselves. These are temporary states even though they may feel unmanageable or unchangeable at the time.

For Those in Other 12 Step Programs

Many of us have been helped to return from insanity to sanity through 12 Step programs. However, our first 12 Step program may seem to conflict with our recovery from incest. In SIA, we use the same 12 Step tools, but differently. Most 12 Step programs teach behavior modification. In SIA, we learn to nurture our inner child.
Characteristics of Incest Survivors

Any sexual contact, covert or overt, between a child and a trusted individual damages the child whether these contacts included any suggestive remarks, pornography, fondling, or acts of sexual aggression or torture. These contacts scar virtually all facets of victims’ lives since we are left with little or no self-esteem.

For Male Survivors
"When I first came to Survivors of Incest Anonymous and saw I was outnumbered by women, I wanted to turn and run." This quote expresses the thoughts of many male Survivors. In time we came to realize that SIA is for all Survivors, not just women. We, too, had been children and innocent victims.

Covert Incest

The dictionary commonly defines incest as “Sexual relations between people who are related through the bond of family and/or marriage.” In SIA, we define incest broadly, incorporating abuse from adults outside the family. We focus on the emotional impact of this abuse of power between a child and an adult caregiver or family friend/acquaintance. What matters is that an adult betrayed the innocent child’s trust and this traumatic betrayal carried a sexual aspect to it. In fact, the damaging effects of incest can manifest in the child, or later in the adult abused as a child, even if the child is never touched. This is referred to as covert incest. 

Group Concerns


All groups have problems at some time or another. Some problems are common to SIA. We hope that the following will answer some of your questions and will aid your group in making its  decision.  Each group is autonomous and can make its own decisions as long as it does not affect neighboring groups or SIA as a whole.  The following are simply guidelines.


Honoring the Child Within

When you first start attending SIA, you may hear others talking about getting in touch with their little girl or boy, while others speak of healing her or him as if they were truly present.  It may sound as if they are speaking another language.  

How to Survive Your First SIA 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 "co-survivors" or “pro-survivors” and are welcome at open meetings.Most SIA meetings are closed. Closed meetings are for survivors of child sexual abuse only. No perpetrators of child abuse are allowed in any SIA meeting.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 terrible. If you feel you belong here, we welcome you.


Many survivors face the question of whether to take medication at some point in the recovery process.  Some of us react to the idea as a defeat, as if it 'proves' that somehow we are failing at recovery.  Sometimes we resist because we do not want to admit how deeply the abuse affected us.  We believe mistakenly that we "should" be able to tolerate and manage anything without help.

Reclaiming Our Spirituality
Among the many things taken from us by our incest experiences was the ability to trust others, especially those in authority over us.  We lost the ability to believe that someone of higher power than ourselves would be there as a resource to help us with problems.  


Webster’s Dictionary defines “reconciling” as “bringing into agreement or harmony,” or “causing to become friendly or peaceable again,” or “restoring.” It can also mean “accepting or resigning to something not desired.” This may suggest not only a acceptance of the harm done to us in sexual abuse, but also recognition of the fortitude and coping skills we developed in surviving it. Reconciling can also imply a sense of making whole or healing.

Signs of Healing on the Road of Recovery


Listed here are attitudes and behaviors that many of us have wanted to change.  We find it helpful to see how far we have come and what else we can do to make progress, not perfection in our recovery.  We encourage you to keep working on your road of recovery!


When we are new in SIA, we often say, "I'll never con­front.  "I don't want to hurt them."  "They are old now."  "Why bring it up?"  "It hap­pened a long time ago."  "I have to understand that s/he was sick and there­fore isn't responsi­ble for what he did."  "My mother­/­father is weak and cannot han­dle all this tension."  "S/He was an alcoholic.  I'm afraid if I talk about the abuse, s/he will lose his sobri­ety."  In SIA, no one is told s/he must confront her/­his abuser.  As a part of our recovery pro­cess, we may want to con­front because our needs often change as we detach and be­come more indepen­dent.

Family Dynamics in 

the Incestuous Home


Many of us who were victims of childhood sexual abuse have discovered that our families of origin shared similar characteristics and patterns of behavior.  As we came to understand those family dynamics, we were better able to recover from the effects of the sexual abuse.  We hope that by sharing our experiences, others will be helped in their recovery process too.

Welcome, Closing, 
12 Steps and 12 Traditions

We are a spiritual self-help group of women and men, 18 years or older, who are guided by a set of 12 Suggested Steps and 12 Traditions as borrowed from AA, along with some slogans and the Serenity Prayer. There are no dues or fees. Everything that is said here, in the group meeting or member to member, must be held in strict confidence. We do not have any professional therapist working in our group. SIA is not a replacement for therapy or any other professional service when needed. The only requirement for membership is that you are a victim of child sexual abuse, and you want to recover.

Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Some of the social maladjustments arising from incest are alcoholism, drug addiction, self-injury, prostitution, promiscuity, uncontrolled anger and sexual dysfunction. Eating or sleeping disorders, migraines, back or stomach pains are just a few of the physical consequences that we may suffer. Food, sex, alcohol and/or drugs deaden painful memories of the abuse and obscure reality temporarily...

Autobiography Guide

Writing our life stories has helped us with identifying, owning and responding to our thoughts, attitudes, emotions, wants, needs, behaviors, hopes and dreams. It was important in discovering and accepting who we are and who we want to become.

Is SIA for You?

SIA is for victims of childhood sexual abuse and incest who are willing to become survivors. The following questions are designed to help you decide if you were a victim of incest so that you can find help and local support, and so you can begin behaving like a survivor.


In SIA, no one is told they must confront their abuser. As a part of our recovery pro­cess, we may want to confront, because our needs often change as we detach and be­come more indepen­dent.

Love and Sex

Sex is ultimate sharing. It can be wonderful and freeing or the most humiliating and painful experience of our lives. When our first sexual experiences were humiliating and painful, sharing ourselves physically can take tremendous courage and a complete rewiring of old messages in the brain, heart and soul. Sex can be one of the most stubborn parts of our healing process. A complete change in attitude is necessary. 

Destructive Relationships


If our partners ignore our feelings and take advantage of us sexually, emotionally or financially, we often tolerate these behaviors because that is what we are used to and expect. We have been conditioned since childhood to behaviors that violate our boundaries and abuse us. We may blame ourselves, try harder and give more in an effort to ‘earn’ the kindness and love that is really our birthright. We may mistakenly believe in our secret heart that we probably deserve abuse, or it would not keep happening to us.  

Eating Disorders

Exact percentages of survivors of sexual abuse who have eating disorders are difficult to gauge because many do not seek help. Some therapists claim as many as 40 to 60 percent of people suffering with eating disorders were sexually abused. The prevailing view is that most of those can be cured. Ways that have helped many to heal their eating disorders will be the main subject of this pamphlet.

Encountering the Abuser: the Confrontation


Holidays and family occasions such as birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals often seem to "loom" or "hang over the head" of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  Many occasions that are supposed to be joyful times or else mark milestones through life can be extremely stressful for us who are survivors.  These occasions expose us to the presence of our abusers or perpetrators and to other family members who may have failed to protect us. 

SIA Co-founder Linda D:

Keynote Speech


I always start out my speech with something funny that happened in the World Service Office.  SIA provides a lot of speakers for radio talk shows and at the end of those shows they put our name and address up so people can contact us. Well, following one of these talk show programs we got a letter. It said,

“Dear Sir, I got your name and number off of a talk show program but I can’t remember why. I have a terrible problem with roaches. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated."

Well, I read this letter and I kept re-reading it and finally I looked at the envelope. It was addressed to “Insects Anonymous.” This person had a completely different idea of what we were about!

The Recovery Process


The purpose of the recovery process is to reclaim as much of the innate goodness of our lives as we can. The experience and expectation of goodness in our lives has been taken from us by the persons who abused us and by those who failed to stop or prevent our abuse. Many of us have lost any sense of joy or belief in ourselves. Life may seem like a burden of pain. We hope for some way to feel better. Working our way through recovery, we search for a new way of living free from the burdens we have carried for so long.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Everyone dissociates.  

"Normal" dissociation often takes the form of daydreaming or "spacing out." While a person is dissociating, he or she experiences a temporary mental escape from whatever is happening at the moment. 

This altered state of consciousness may occur during a long drive, an engrossing book or movie, or some boring activity.  Occasionally losing touch with our immediate surroundings is practically a universal experience.  However, some of us frequently or chronically dissociate, creating gaps in our memory or affecting our sense of identity.



No matter what stage of our recovery we are in most of us struggle with negative thoughts about ourselves and our recovery process.  Even though it's uncomfortable and frustrating, it's a normal part of the recovery process.  Understanding why this happens is a first step toward minimizing the effect these thoughts have on us and leads to self-acceptance.  Self-acceptance frees us to gradually let go of the negative self-talk and affirm ourselves instead. With work and patience with ourselves these habits of thought can be changed.  


© 2007 Survivors of Incest Anonymous
All rights reserved.  Permission to reprint granted only in writing.

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