U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Strengthening Sexual Assault Victims' Right to Privacy

NCJ Number
Joanne Zannoni M.S.W., LICSW
Date Published
April 2009
13 pages
In focusing on sexual assault victims' right to privacy, this guide reinforces the importance of keeping information confidential and offers recommendations, addresses common challenges, explains core concepts, and offers practical guidance that assists victim advocates in maintaining victim confidentiality.
In 2002, the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc., which produced this guide, surveyed sexual assault victims living in Connecticut. All of the victims surveyed indicated that it was "important" or "very important" that their conversations with a sexual assault crisis advocate be kept confidential. The victims did not want the details of their assaults, their feelings, or their situations shared with any other persons or agency. Confidentiality plays a vital role in the recovery process because it helps establish an environment in which victims feel comfortable and trusting in seeking assistance, making connections with advocates, and retaining the power to choose what information can be shared, with whom, when, and how. Key confidentiality principles are outlined in this guide. One of these principles is that the victim service center's policies and practices are the fundamental support for maintaining victims' privacy. One recommendation for center policies is that a victim's decision to disclose information be voluntary and free from pressure. The challenges to confidentiality identified and discussed are confidentiality breaches, pressures to violate confidentiality, mandated services, advocates as interpreters, risk management issues, and crimes against advocates and centers. A section on protections for victims' right to privacy provides guidance on policies and procedures for confidentiality in sexual assault crisis and victim services centers; consistent advocacy practices; and laws, statutes, and regulations. The guide concludes with practical tips on ensuring victim confidentiality by decreasing the spread of information, creating less information, knowing what information is kept and used, and informing victims of court protections.