Victim advocate confidentiality is crucial to advancing safety and justice for American Indian/Alaska Native victims of sexual violence. The “golden rule” on confidentiality for victim advocates is: A client’s information is not to be shared outside of the victim advocate’s agency unless the client gives the agency express permission to do so.
It is important to remember that concerns about confidentiality do not arise when the victim grants an advocate express permission or gives her specific consent to disclose sensitive information.
When advocating for a victim with law enforcement or with other agencies, it is important for the victim advocate to have a clear understanding of the scope of information where permission for disclosure has been given. Utilizing a signed, written confidentiality form for your agency is the simplest way to provide notice to the victim of the type of information that can be disclosed.
Victim advocacy organizations should also maintain an agency wide, written confidentiality policy. This policy should address the most common issues regarding confidentiality and disclosure. It should also provide guidance when faced with a difficult situation such as mandatory child abuse reporting or responding to a court order such as a subpoena.
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*National Tribal Trial College is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.