Hold Team Meetings . Monitor and Evaluate Your Efforts . Sustain Your SART . Know Your Team . Critical Issues
Protecting victims of sexual violence requires understanding relevant privacy rules and regulations, evidentiary privileges and waivers, the unique status of individuals with disabilities or other protected classes of victims, and state and federal constitutional rights—including crime victims' rights amendments and statutes (see Victims' Rights in this toolkit).
Establish SART guidelines to protect victims' privacy. Inform victims of their privacy rights and the ways in which privacy may be compromised or privileged communication waived during civil or criminal litigation. In addition, let victims know the types of information that may be exposed and the roles of the advocate and attorney in protecting their privacy.
Whether your SART is just starting or has been established for years, you'll need to develop and regularly review your confidentiality policy. At a minimum, it should include9—
- A policy section on the philosophy and rationale of confidentiality.
- Policies on responding to subpoenas.
- Clear policies on what information must be held confidential.
- Policies that outline how and when victims' confidentiality is protected (including in support groups).
- Policies that ensure victims give informed consent when privilege is waived.
The 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (Public Law 109-162) added a requirement related to nondisclosure of confidential or private information regarding services for victims. Under this provision, grantees and subgrantees using Office on Violence Against Women funds may not disclose personally identifying information about victims served without a written release, unless the disclosure of the information is required by a statute or court order. You may want to consider adopting similar confidentiality standards when developing your SART.
Personally identifying information means information for or about an individual, such as a first and last name, a home or other physical address, contact information, a social security number, date of birth, racial or ethnic background, religious affiliation, or any other information that, in combination with other information, could serve to identify an individual.
This section reviews—
- Confidential and privileged communications.
- Informed choice and consent.
- SART recordkeeping.
- Unintentional confidentiality waivers.
- Intentional confidentiality waivers.
- Open records.
- Other confidentiality issues (e.g., HIPAA, use of interpreters, mandated reporting, advocates onsite, and confidentiality as it relates to different types of victims).