U.S. Federal Laws & Confidentiality for Survivors
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What this is:
This piece addresses common confidentiality questions about several U.S. federal laws that may impact victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It highlights key confidentiality and privacy provisions in 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act (VAWA)1 and the 2010 reauthorization of the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA)2. With VAWA confidentiality provisions in mind, it also answers questions regarding the following U.S. federal laws: The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics (Clery)3, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)4, and, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)5.
In analyzing the meaning and application of the confidentiality and privacy provisions of VAWA, the purpose of the statute (to protect adult, youth, and child victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking and their families) must be kept at the forefront.
In general, these answers are intended for victim advocates employed by nonprofit or community-based agencies. Additionally, it is important that other partner agencies and professionals involved in collocated and coordinated community responses understand these answers. If you request information from another individual or agency, you want to be sure that any information you receive has been obtained properly. Many entities, including nonprofit advocates, must abide by strict legal confidentiality and privacy provisions when considering requests for information.
What this is not:
Confidentiality and privilege laws vary from state to state, as do other laws that may be impacted by VAWA legislation. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is not an expert on individual state laws and does not provide legal advice to VAWA grantees. The analysis below is not intended to be a substitute for local, legal advice from an attorney who is familiar with a particularjurisdiction's laws related to confidentiality and privilege of victim/victim advocate relationships.
Most significantly, the users of this piece should keep in mind that many situations are unique. These questions and answers are not to be taken as definitive answers to every circumstance that might arise for a victim or a domestic violence or sexual assault agency in regard to confidentiality and privacy. They are general guidance in how to think about the issues. If you have specific questions or situations that you wish to discuss further, please contact NNEDV's Safety Net Project by phone: 202‐543‐5566 or email: tcip [at] nnedv.org.
1 U.S. Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005), enacted as Public Law 109‐162 on January 5, 2006.
2 U.S. Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA 2010) reauthorized as part of the U.S. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and enacted as Public Law 111‐320 on December 20, 2010.
3 U.S. Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery), codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f), with implementing regulations at 34 C.F.R. 668.46.
4 U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) originally enacted in 1996 as Public Law 104‐191.
5 U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R. Part 99.