ARP Fails Women Support Groups

Anonymous Question Series:

Q: "Why does The Church's ARP program assume that men are addicts and women are "related to addicts"? It is SO difficult to find a women's support group."


The quick answer: as an Church culture, we have done a poor job at identifying and providing women resources.

(This is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely, for me. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me, so much so that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions. Additionally, Kathryn Kirk and I have attempted to fill this gap with "LDS Women Struggle Too" Blog and Group. But because of our Church culture, it is very hard to get the word out.)

However, I can't "blame" The Church nor the "culture" for not meeting the needs of women adequately in this regard. Many do, and I value the frustration around the topic. But this issue is NOT limited to The Church. "Addiction," especially sexual related issues, have historically been a "man's issue”. With the exception of AA (or "Friends of Bill"), which had its beginnings in 1935, support groups for non-substance abuse only started in the mid 1970s and were predominately male focused. Additionally, medically and psychologically there is NO standard definition or diagnosis for sexual-related "addiction." Sex (porn and sexual related issues) addiction was a “self-diagnosis” of subtenancy abuse individuals who felt they wanted a separate AA meeting to address their "problems with love." It was also a "sign" to their spouses that they were doing "something" to address their cheating behavior. It is interesting to note that because there was NO medical definition of sex addiction it was entirely — and still is today — self-diagnosed. Here's the kicker; because there was/is no medical definition, the criteria for sex addiction was entirely driven by white male middle class individuals:

"Sex addiction is overwhelmingly focused on male sexuality, given that 90-95% of alleged sex addicts are male. In the paraprofessional side of sex addiction, the online bloggers and activists who promote the ideas of porn addiction are also consistently white males, typically of middle class or above." —David J. Ley, Ph.D, Sex Addiction's Diversity Problem

As a result of white Christian middle class males defining sex addiction, the majority of addicts are in that demographic ... the epitome of confirmed bias! As such, the “solutions” have been entirely developed around solving it for the white Christian middle class male — not only making a perceived issue worse than it really is, but entirely neglecting the needs of other demographics.

The Church has been modeling what the professionals have been doing; therefore, they have mirrored support groups for males of our faith and have lectured repeatably to men in priesthood meetings, while entirely ignoring or being unaware that about 50% of those who struggle with porn and sexual issues are female. This is while NOT one word is spoken about it in Relief Society or the General Women's Conferences. Fortunately, the Brethren are recognizing that the old approach isn't working, and they haven't lectured the men in priesthood for the last few conferences.

Back to your specific question. There are support groups, but they are hard to find. Kathryn and I have tried really hard to promote our free online group, but it is very hard to spread the word. I also wonder if The Church should be involved with support groups. The success rate is ridiculously poor ... at best 10% for support groups or 12-step programs in general. I believe the success rate in our church support groups and 12-step programs also mirror the secular groups. Unfortunately, our view that something is better than nothing is keeping the status quo.

This isn't a solution, but hopefully it helped you understand the complicated dynamics of the issue. You are always welcome to reach out to Kathryn or myself for further support. If you would like a support group, we are eager to support an effective, solution-based approach. Spread the word and we will provide.