The Big Sister League of San Diego invited Fermanian business assistant, Chloe Sparacino, to speak with their staff and residents about San Diego’s new recovery program for victims of sexual abuse. San Diego’s Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA) is a 12-step spiritual support group of women and men, 18 years or older, guided by a set of 12 Steps and 12 Traditions as borrowed from AA. A group of survivors has been meeting in City Heights since March 30, 2010 and membership continues to grow every week.
Prior to meeting the Big Sister League residents, Sparacino first attended a meeting with the League’s staff to explain how the SIA program works. The staff was particularly interested in how SIA is different from other 12-step programs, and who leads the meetings. Sparacino explained SIA focuses on recovery from the problems affecting those who were sexually abused as children. Leadership and service positions are shared equally among the members, and every member is responsible for holding the group accountable to the SIA guidelines, which are read aloud at the beginning of every meeting.
On Saturday April 17, 2010, Sparacino had dinner with the residents of the Big Sister house, which provides transitional housing for mentally ill, homeless and/or abused women. She led a casual meeting afterwards on resources for victims of sexual abuse. Sparacino recounted, “We shared our stories, and how our experiences have affected our lives today. We talked about how we can use the wounding pain of what happened to us to help others, because so many lives have been altered by abuse. One of the residents told me if she could help someone who is going through a difficult time, perhaps she could find peace after her own history of family abuse. I know her strength to tell her story will help many other survivors who suffer in silence and shame.”
Some questions Sparacino frequently gets asked are, “What if the abuse happened when I was an adult, and what if it was just a one-time incident?” Although SIA meetings mainly address any type of sexual abuse that occurred in childhood, anyone who has been affected by sexual abuse is welcome at the meetings. Attendance is purely voluntary. It is up to each individual to determine if they are getting their recovery needs met through attending, and to choose if they will continue to attend.
The Big Sister League of San Diego, Inc. assists women and girls in San Diego County by providing supervised transitional housing, volunteer mentor relationships, and support services. The League’s programs are designed to encourage confidence, self-esteem, and independence. The Big Sister League of San Diego, Inc., a private, non-profit organization serving women and girls of San Diego, California since 1942, supports two separate programs:
Through the Big and Little Sister Mentor Program, adult women provide friendship and guidance to help a young girl recognize her talents and use them to reach her full potential.
The Housing Program, with two locations near downtown San Diego, provides transitional housing for mentally ill, homeless and/or abused women. Since 1942 the League has continued to grow, now operating two homes. The homes can serve up to 34 women, providing them with housing, counseling, and social services. Most residents stay between 6 months and a year before transitioning into independent living. This program has become a primary housing resource for many mentally ill and/or abused women in San Diego County through the years.
Information about the Big Sister League of San Diego and how to donate can be found on their website: www.bigsisterleague.org