Police should not be called by healthcare providers about patients that have been sexually assaulted (Fraser Health, n.d.).

It is the survivor’s choice to decide if, and when, they want to report the sexual assault to the police.

Reports should only be made to police or the Ministry of Children and Family Development 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).

Physicians do not have a duty to report a criminal sexual offence involving survivors 19 years of age or older to the police because it is considered a breach of confidentiality unless there was consent from the survivor or the survivor’s legal guardian (CMPA, 2021).

Nurses are not required to release health information to actively assist police in investigating a crime; police must obtain legal authority to access health information, such as a court order or subpoena (CNPS, 2021).

You should inform survivors about your legal obligations to report, and why and when you report. If you 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.

Please refer to your organization’s policies and procedures about patient privacy.

Go to the Canadian Medical Protective Society or the Canadian Nurses Protective Society for more information.

Questions? Contact our Community Coordination for Survivor Safety (CCSS) team at ccss@endingviolence.org.