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SARTs and Creating Conditions for Disclosure: Confidentiality

One of the major barriers that victims/survivors face in being able to disclose their experiences of sexual violence is the fear that someone will find out – that someone will learn that they were assaulted, that they sought out help, or that they contacted the system for services. There can be a lot of danger and fear surrounding getting help, and so, it becomes the job of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to create conditions that allow victims/survivors to feel safe in accessing services.

This post won’t give you all of the answers on how a team can take steps to protect confidentiality. These are just some ideas to get you started.

  • If people won’t come to your location for fear of being “seen” by others in the community, build up your SARTner relationships and find neutral meeting locations. Maybe you meet at a private office space in your local library or coffee shop. Perhaps you have an agreement worked out with your local faith community to use their offices once per week. Find places where someone would be safe having their vehicles or faces seen by others.
  • Responders may be family members, close friends or otherwise known to the victims/survivors. Be sure that your team has talked through options for victims/survivors to access services from people they do not know. This might include working with neighboring communities to provide services, or offering an “opt-out” within your agency if there is only 1 or 2 staff people in a role. Develop clear boundaries and provide guarantees to victims/survivors that you will not share their information. Provide them with the professional and ethical obligations as well as the grievance processes.

There are other issues connected to confidentiality that your team might be currently struggling with. Start to think creatively and collaboratively about how you can solve some of these confidentiality concerns. Through the relationships and resources they already have, our teams can address these barriers in our communities to create safe and useful conditions for disclosure.