Publication Date: April 2009
Create Less Information
An advocate can also remind victims to consider service and payment options that create less documentation of privileged information. For example, a victim can
- Withhold their insurance information from the hospital when consenting to a post-assault exam and evidence collection. (For example, in Connecticut, insurance information does not have to be provided to the hospital because the state is required to pay for both of these services for all victims of sexual assault. However, this is not the case in every state.)
- Protect the victim's anonymity through the use of a control number, if possible, should she choose to undergo the exam and evidence collection. (For example, in Connecticut, the hospital can assign a number to the victim and use this number in lieu of the victim's name on the evidence collection kit. An alternative from a control number, used in the District of Columbia (D.C.), is to have the hospitals, in partnership with the D.C. SANE program, mark the victim's medical record as "assault one" instead of "sexual assault.")
- Ask that treatment be provided in as private an area as possible and that voices be kept low so that others cannot overhear what is being said.
- If the victim is a patient in a hospital, an advocate should request that the victim's location (room number) and general condition not be disclosed to people and that this information, along with her religious affiliation, should not be listed in the hospital directory.
- Request a free, anonymous HIV test and/or confidential STI test at a designated site and keep the test results confidential. (For example, in Connecticut, specific sites are funded by the Department of Public Health to provide free, anonymous testing and confidential counseling.)
- Seek therapy from a licensed mental health care provider. If the provider is unlicensed or is a hypnotherapist, the victim's private information may not be protected by law. A victim's advocate should check state or territory laws regarding privilege to help the victim make this determination.
- Apply for victim compensation benefits to cover the cost of certain medical and mental health services. This option is available to victims who meet eligibility criteria. However, advocates should be prepared to discuss the possible implications of this option, including the potential waiver of privilege, with victims.
- Consider paying for certain medical services out-of-pocket, if possible, to minimize records (for example, insurance information) kept regarding treatment.
- Refrain from paying for health care and prescriptions with a credit card. Privacy laws do not apply to financial institutions. Theoretically, writing a check poses a similar privacy risk. Victims may want to pay with cash if possible.
- Consider who might have access to the victim's health information if she pays for treatment using a credit card, health insurance, and so forth, and how that information might be used (for example, to affect the victim's ability to get insurance in the future).