How to get assistance
Our best practices page contains information that represents our current thinking on approaches that will best support survivor-centered practices to create an environment for self-empowerment, healing, safety, and maximizing autonomy in order for survivors and their children to thrive beyond violence.
This page is currently under development, please stay tuned for more. Sign up for the UDVC newsletter for more announcements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is being Trauma-Informed?
Confidentiality when Working with Survivors
Confidentiality comes from The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). These Acts contain strong confidentiality provisions that limit the sharing of victims’ personally identifying information, including entering information into public records and databases. Please visit the NNEDV website for a further breakdown.
The U.S. Congress has legally codified the importance of victim confidentiality in two sections of VAWA and in FVPSA:
- Universal Grant Conditions: Nondisclosure of Confidential or Private Information (VAWA 2013 Section 3: 34 USC §12291 (a)(20) & (b)(2)
- VAWA amended the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act at (42 U.S.C. 11363) (VAWA 2005, Section 605)
- FVPSA 42 U.S.C. 10406(c)(5)
- Additionally, the Department of Justice has implemented supporting regulations on victim confidentiality for VAWA grantees at 28 CFR 90.4, and for VOCA grantees at 28 CFR 94.115.
Confidentiality means that the VAWA Section 3, FVPSA, & VOCA regulations prohibit sharing personally identifying information about victims without informed, written, reasonably time-limited consent. These confidentiality grant conditions also prohibit programs from making the signing of a release a condition of service. Additionally, no program can share personally-identifying information to comply with Federal, Tribal, or State reporting, evaluation, or data collection requirements.
Things to Remember as a Survivor
First and foremost: be an advocate. Remember it’s the survivor’s information. The survivor retains the right to choose when, how and what personal information will be shared, or not shared, and with whom. Agencies and advocates are responsible for respecting and honoring the victim’s wishes and safeguarding any of the survivor’s information that they collect or hold.
Law and General Principles: Your program must know the law that governs confidentiality and any exceptions to those laws. State/territorial/ tribal laws also may have various confidentiality provisions that apply to domestic violence and sexual assault advocates. Please visit the following link in order to read Utah’s laws.
- Your program/agency has a legal obligation to protect the survivor’s personally identifiable information.
- Your program should not release any information about the victim/client unless you have the clearly informed, written, and signed, reasonably time-limited consent of the client. This is the best practice in any situation. The survivor gets to choose when, how and what personal information will be shared, or not shared, and with whom.
- Programs may only share the specific information the client allows in the release.
- Even when state/territorial/tribal law or court mandate requires the program to disclose or release information about the client, the program may only share the minimum information necessary to meet the statutory or court mandate.
- The program/agency is required to take steps to notify the victim of any disclosure and to continue taking steps to protect the victim’s safety and privacy.
- If your program is unsure how laws apply to a certain situation, you should consult with a local attorney or other experts. Confidentiality and privilege laws vary by jurisdiction, as do other laws that may affect an agency or individual staff person’s response. Furthermore, a particular situation may require a closer analysis of the ways federal, state/territorial/tribal, and local law apply, which may require localized legal advice.