Confidentiality Is the Foundation of Healing
If the effects of trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others, then the objective of recovery is to empower the victim and establish new connections.5 Confidentiality plays a vital role in the recovery process because it helps establish an environment in which victims feel more comfortable seeking assistance, making connections, and exercising their power within their right to choose what information to share, with whom, when, and how. Thus, confidentiality is a fundamental component of the relationship between a victim service center, a sexual assault victim advocate, and a victim.6,7 The victim agrees to full self-disclosure and truth-telling, and the sexual assault victim advocate agrees to maintain the victim's confidence. Essentially, a social contract is formed between the center, advocate, and victim.
A victim service center and its advocates, staff, and volunteers fill a unique and critical role. Their purpose is to ensure that victims know about their rights and options and the resources available to them so that the victim can make well-informed decisions. The more the victim learns to trust and find support in the relationship, the more the victim will have the capacity and strength to work through the assault and move forward. The advocate must offer a relationshipfree of judgment, coercion, and betrayalto each victim. The relationship must be based on the discussion and limitation of confidentiality, the promise that the advocate will do his or her best to uphold confidentiality, and the promise of immediate notification if confidentiality has been breached.