Maintaining Survivor Confidentiality in Healthcare Settings

Most healthcare professionals do not report when a survivor has been sexual assaulted to the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) or police.

However, some healthcare professionals may be unclear about their responsibilities to maintain patient confidentiality and how it relates to mandatory reporting requirements; they should not report sexual assaults to the police without the survivor’s consent or knowledge.   

Healthcare services should have policies and practices to protect patient privacy.   

Police do not need to be called by healthcare professionals about patients that have been sexually assaulted (Fraser Health, n.d.). 

Healthcare professionals should only report to police or the MCFD about situations specified by mandatory reporting legislation (i.e., survivor under the age of 19 has been abused and the parent is unwilling or unable to protect them or the BC Gunshot and Stab Wound Disclosure Act) 

Healthcare professionals should inform survivors about their legal obligations to report to government authorities such as MCFD, and when and why the report was made. If healthcare professionals make a mandatory report, survivors are not obligated to talk with police (Canadian Civil Liberties Association, 2021; RCMP, 2021). 

It is particularly important to provide survivors under the age of 19 with age-based information and support because of close in age exceptions for consent; child/youth survivors may also have mature minor status.  There may be negative consequences for the survivor if healthcare providers notify MCFD or contact the survivor’s parent or guardian without having a discussion with the survivor or consulting community support services.  For example, the survivor’s safety may be at risk if the abuser is a family member and is notified about the survivor accessing healthcare.

Examples of child and youth-based supports include community based victim services, which can be accessed through VictimLinkBC, and Child and Youth Advocacy Centres.