Ethics and Confidentiality
March 4, 2011
The success of the advocate/victim relationship is based upon the development of the victims’ trust that they may confide sensitive and intimate information fully and freely to their counselors. Confidentiality is essential for effective advocacy because without an assurance of confidentiality, victims may avoid help altogether or may withhold certain personal feelings and thoughts because they fear disclosure.
We have ethical obligations to:
- · Survivors with whom we work (and their children)
- · Our coworkers
- · Our agency and its reputation
- · Professional affiliations (NASW, etc.)
Ethical Guidelines for working with survivors
- · Respect and maintain confidentiality
- · Offer support, information, safety options, and advocacy.
- · Identify and reinforce strengths and respect current survival methods.
- · Do not offer personal opinion.
- · If you cannot help, find another resource that can.
- · Accept and reinforce right to make own decision.
- · Don’t discriminate. For any reason.
Relationships that must never happen between an advocate and client:
- · Good friend/confidante
- · Romantic/sexual/intimate
- · Financial (lending or borrowing money)
- · Business (hiring or being hired by; purchasing from)
Why Confidentiality between Survivor and Our Programs is Important
- · Privacy allows survivors to confide sensitive and intimate information that is necessary to the counseling or advocacy relationship.
- · Without the assurance of confidentiality, many survivors would not seek our services.
- · There is an expectation from the survivor and the community that our services are confidential.
The harm of disclosure to those seeking counseling or shelter is palpable: many counselors agree that when told that the private information revealed during counseling sessions may be used in court, there is a drastic change in the dynamics of the counseling relationship. For survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence, confidentiality may be more than just an issue of privacy; it may be one of life and death.
The YWCA’s Confidentiality Policy is located in the first section of the manual.
Several Michigan laws protect survivor confidentiality in certain circumstances: domestic violence/sexual assault counselor, social worker, licensed professional counselor, medical personnel, and psychologists.
Exceptions to General Confidentiality: suspected child abuse, duty to warn.