Frequently Asked Questions About U.S. Federal Laws and Confidentiality for Survivors
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) and the 2010 reauthorization of the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA). 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),
- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), and,
- the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
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.
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, it is important to be sure that you have obtained that information properly. Many entities, including nonprofit advocates, must abide by strict legal confidentiality and privacy provisions when considering any requests for information.
The piece was cowritten by NNEDV's Safety Net Project and The Confidentiality Institute to answer questions received from domestic and sexual violence advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, attorneys, health professionals, and others, including many US DOJ OVW grantees (2011).