Safeguarding Whom?

On receiving a recent communication on Safeguarding Standards in AA from the General Service Board (GSB) through our General Secretary, I got to thinking:

How did we get to this point?

Along with my sponsor, I was just over 90 days sober, I went to my first ever intergroup meeting way back in the last millennium. The then chair of intergroup held up a document that had been received by the secretary regarding 12 stepping minors. He said something like “This is guidance sent from the GSB in York. We don’t have to discuss it, it is only guidance that we can accept or reject.” The Rebel Without a Clue in me at that time thought “Yeah! Right on! We can do what we want in here, free spirits!!!”

And I never went back to intergroup for nearly three years. “Someone else can do that stuff . . . ” (insert rolling eyes here)

In my recover since then, I have become just as interested in the traditions as in the steps. Therefore, I have tried to work both into my daily life. I am fascinated at how they formed, hewed on the anvil of experience. And then reading and trying to understand the old, ever-changing guidelines, which morphed into the two handbooks on structure and service.

At region, I was voted onto a national event committee and attended my first meeting. It was suggested to read the guidelines on the event. Someone called out the age-old quote, “They are only guidelines, not rules. We don’t have to stick to them!” The chair of the committee said, “Yes, they are guidelines. Ignore them at your peril.”

Wise words indeed.

So, on looking at this latest document sent from GSB regarding Safeguarding Standards, who does it safeguard?

If we adhere to the principles in it, I think it safeguards three areas:
1. First and foremost, it safeguards AA. Hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
2. It safeguards the newcomer who comes to the fellowship, scared and very vulnerable. They are the very life blood of AA, without them, we would wither and die.
3. It safeguards me, the ordinary AA member. Adherence to this guidance will save me from putting myself in to dangerous situations.

One area of the guidance I am not too sure about is sponsorship:

AA members are not legally required to obtain a DBS Certificate in order to act as a Sponsor. However, Sponsors are encouraged to apply, as individuals, for a basic DBS Check and to provide a copy of their DBS Certificate to their Group Secretary, as a means of strengthening safeguarding standards in the Fellowship.”

Years ago, I used to joke, “Does a sponsor have to take out Public Liability Insurance to cover against giving a sponsee wrong or bad advice?” Would this mean that when a new member (or existing member changing sponsors) asks us to sponsor them, we would have to show the sponsee our current DSB certificate? And what if the sponsor has no experience on something the sponsee asks? If we refer them to someone we know has that experience, should we make sure the person we are recommending has the same clearance?

Maybe just a step too far for me!

Let’s Keep It Simple.

Arthur Z.