Frequently Asked Questions

This section provides an overview on questions that commonly come up concerning confidentiality releases, U.S. Federal Laws on confidentiality, record retention and deletion, mandatory reporting, the use of surveillance cameras, answering subpoenas and much more. For ease, this section is set up in an easy-to-read question and answer format.

Survivor Confidentiality Releases

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Full piece "FAQ's on Survivor Confidentiality Releases"

What this is:

This document, “FAQ’s on Survivor Confidentiality Releases,” addresses common questions that agencies and advocates who work with survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking frequently have regarding confidentiality and the release of information. It takes into account the confidentiality and privacy provisions in the U.S. federal Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005). In analyzing the meaning and application of the confidentiality and privacy provisions of VAWA 2005, 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.

What this is not:

This document, “FAQ’s on Survivor Confidentiality Releases,” is not a substitute for legal advice. Confidentiality and privilege laws vary from state to state, as do other laws that may be impacted by this legislation. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a non-profit membership organization that provides critical information and resources, training and assistance, policy advocacy and innovative programs to state domestic violence coalitions, agencies, and communities that are working to end domestic violence and are supporting survivors. NNEDV does not provide crisis intervention or legal services. NNEDV is not an expert on individual state laws and does not provide legal advice. Victim service agencies that do not have an attorney on staff or do not have a working relationship with legal services in the local area may want to consider locating a local attorney who is familiar with their particular jurisdiction’s laws related to confidentiality and privilege of victim/victim advocate relationships. If a victim service agency is the member of a larger coalition of victim service agencies, for example a sexual assault state coalition, then that agency may be able to contact their coalition for legal advice and assistance. If you are a non-profit organization or program working with a survivor of domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking and have specific questions concerning confidentiality and privilege or a situation that you wish to discuss further, you can contact NNEDV’s Safety Net Project by phone: 202-543-5566 or email: tcip[at]nnedv[dot]org for technical assistance.

In general, this information is intended for domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking agencies and advocates employed by nonprofit agencies. While it is also important for other agencies providing victim services and professionals who work with victims to understand as well, this resource was created to ensure that non-profit victim service organizations and programs working together have the information they need concerning confidentiality and privacy in order to provide safe and effective services for victims. As the partner of a nonprofit agency, when requesting information from another agency, you will want to be sure that the information you are getting has been obtained properly. Furthermore, it is extremely important for partners to understand that non-profit agencies that receive federal funds are bound by the Violence Against Women Act, and must abide by certain legal limitations when the release of information is involved.