Advocacy

Confidentiality

Written confidentiality forms for victims advocacy agencies generally include the following:
  • A list of the specific information that the victim authorizes the advocate or agency to disclose
  • A list of persons or agencies that can receive the specific confidential information from the advocate and/or her agency
  • A signature line for the victim to sign (after reading the form and discussing it thoroughly with her advocate)
  • An expiration date after which no information may be disclosed absent the signing of a new form
  • Notice that the victim can rescind her permission to disclose information at any time, if she chooses.

Victim Advocate Confidentiality in Indian Country

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.

Victim advocates frequently play a critical role in the criminal justice process. Victim advocates should not reveal any information to prosecutors, law enforcement, or defense attorneys unless the advocate receives:
  • 1.) Express consent from the victim
  • 2.) A court order
  • 3.) A subpoena accompanied by either a court order or “satisfactory assurances”
  • 4.) A discovery request accompanied by either a court order or “satisfactory assurances.”
The "satisfactory assurance" requirement can be fulfilled either through a “Notice to Consumer” document or, in the alternative, a written statement demonstrating that:
  • The requesting party made a good faith attempt to provide written notice to the victim
  • The notice included sufficient information about the judicial proceeding to permit the victim to raise an objection in court
  • The time for the victim to raise objections to the court elapsed without the victim filing an objection

Confidentiality Documents

Contact NICCSA

4015 E. Paradise Falls Dr. Suite 131, Tucson, Arizona 85712

Phone: (520) 623-8192
Fax: (520) 623-8246

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*National Tribal Trial College is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project was supported by Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K045, 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.