Sexual abuse is distressing – and often frightening. If you’re a victim of sexual violence or abuse, you deserve justice. You deserve to have your story heard and to seek compensation for the harm you’ve endured. However, it’s common for victims to fear stepping forward due to one issue: confidentiality.
For victims of sexual abuse, confidentiality is critical. It can encourage survivors to come forward and report harm, and it can help them heal. California sexual abuse laws exist to protect survivor confidentiality but they’re nuanced and complex. Below, we explore California’s sexual abuse reporting laws so you can step forward with confidence.
Do you need a sexual abuse attorney in California? Don’t hesitate to contact the May Firm. We offer every potential client a free, no-obligation meeting.
We’ll evaluate your case and explain your legal rights. Call now or complete our contact form.
What Is Sexual Abuse Confidentiality?
Sexual abuse confidentiality empowers victims to get justice. It allows them to report sexual abuse without revealing their identity. They can take action against a perpetrator -– whether in civil or criminal courts – while remaining anonymous.
Why Victim Confidentiality Matters
Confidentiality matters for two main reasons.
- Confidentiality promotes sexual abuse reporting. This enables victims to get the justice they deserve.
- Victims may be fearful of violence or retaliation. Confidentiality keeps them safe from further harm.
To be clear, confidentiality is not quite the same as privilege.
- “Confidentiality” means that whoever receives the report should keep your information and identity private. They should only disclose certain information e.g. medical records with your express consent.
- “Privilege” typically applies to communications e.g. discussions between a counselor and patient. The parties involved (such as the patient) have the right to invoke privilege and keep these conversations confidential.
The law is firmly on your side when it comes to confidentiality. For example, HIPAA prevents doctors from disclosing your medical records without consent. And if you have a lawyer, your conversations with them are protected by attorney-client privilege.
It’s important to remember that, until you hire a lawyer, you do not have an attorney-client relationship. So, contacting a lawyer to schedule a first meeting doesn’t constitute a legal relationship.
Our team can explain the differences in more detail as they relate to your case.
The Devastating Consequences of Breaching Confidentiality
Sometimes, courts and other agents – such as lawyers – can view confidential information in the scope of a lawsuit. This is not technically a breach of confidentiality.
For example, say a court subpoenas records. They will be granted access to the least amount of information necessary to make a determination. And certain individuals, such as mandated reporters, may need to release small amounts of data. This helps victims access advocacy services.
Breaching confidentiality means releasing information without a victim’s consent. It can have severe, long-term consequences for survivors.
- Victims lose faith in the justice system. They may be less likely to trust police officers, attorneys, and other legal professionals.
- A victim may face stigma at work or worry about their employment prospects. They may also be treated differently by family and/or acquaintances.
- In some cases, abusers may commit further acts of abuse – or violence – against the victim as retaliation.
- When victims stop coming forward, abusers gain the upper hand. Sexual abuse rates may rise if there’s less risk of punishment.
Confidentiality can be difficult to maintain in small, localized communities e.g. school campuses. However, the impact of a breach can be truly devastating for the victim. Every effort must be taken to maintain confidentiality to give victims the space they need to come forward.
Confidentiality laws, especially as they apply in court, are complex. Our sexual abuse lawyers can explain how they apply in your case.
Challenges of Sexual Abuse Reporting in the Workplace
Many individuals find the idea of reporting sexual abuse at work daunting. This is completely understandable. Here’s what victims should know about reporting confidentiality in sexual abuse in workplace settings.
- A workplace should have a reporting system in place for making sexual harassment reports.
- There should be an option to make confidential reports. You must be able to make such reports without fear of retaliation.
- An employer must take reasonable steps to protect your anonymity during investigations.
- Your employer cannot prohibit you from disclosing factual information about sexual abuse at work. This means they can’t force you to sign settlement agreements with certain types of confidentiality clauses. This is all thanks to CA’s “Silenced No More” Act.
Sexual Abuse Confidentiality and Mandated Reporters
Some individuals are legally required to report certain suspicions e.g. child abuse. These individuals are known as mandated reporters. They include doctors, social workers, and teachers.
If you’re a mandated reporter, you may be confused about how sexual abuse confidentiality laws affect you. We can summarize them generally as follows.
- You’re obliged to give your name when you submit a report. However, your identity cannot be revealed to the subject of the report. It is kept confidential.
- Unless it’s deliberate false reporting, you won’t be liable if you’re wrong about the suspected abuse. You should always err on the side of caution.
- Federal laws, such as HIPAA, let you notify victim advocacy programs if you have a sexual abuse victim present. Their identity, however, must remain confidential unless you have express consent to disclose it.
Are you worried about potential repercussions from mandatory reporting? Contact our attorneys for help.
The Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
Sexual abuse, in any form, is too significant to handle alone. The longer you wait to seek help, the more intimidating the process can seem. Here are the main reasons why you should seek legal advice for any unwanted sexual contact.
Taking the First Step to Report Abuse
Making that initial report can be terrifying. Experienced counsel understands this. When you seek legal advice, the attorney should make you feel safe and respected.
Confidentiality for victims of sexual abuse is priceless. Your attorney will explain what level of confidentiality you’re entitled to. They can determine how to respond if these protections are breached.
Navigating the Legal System
For sexual abuse survivors, the law can seem complex and overwhelming.
An experienced attorney won’t just ensure that your legal rights are respected. They’ll guide you through the entire process and explain how the system works. It won’t be so daunting with a sexual abuse lawyer on your side.
Liaising with Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers play a critical role in protecting sexual abuse victims. This extends to making them feel safe reporting abuse and helping to protect their confidentiality. Our team can help you communicate with law enforcement and other criminal agencies, should you file charges.
If you don’t file criminal charges, we can still help you understand your rights to confidentiality.
Compensation for Your Suffering
Every sexual abuse case is entirely unique. However, they all have something in common – victims deserve justice for the harm done. Of course, no amount of compensation can make up for what happened. However, it can help you move forward and prevent financial hardship.
Depending on your case, you may be able to claim compensation for losses such as:
- Doctor’s appointments
- Therapy bills
- Lost wages
The right to compensation exists even if you don’t file criminal charges. Our team in California can explain the process in more detail.
How Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers Can Help
We understand that, as a survivor, you may feel lost and confused right now. After all, you’ve endured a life-changing event. If you reach out to us, here’s what you can expect from the May Firm team.
- Comprehensive advice on how to make your sexual abuse or sexual harassment claim.
- Compassionate guidance to ensure you understand the legal procedures involved.
- Supportive attorneys and support staff, waiting to answer any questions you have.
- Robust legal representation to help you secure justice. We will be your best advocates in and out of the courtroom.
We will work tirelessly to help you get compensation for the harm you’ve endured. Whether you have therapy bills or medical expenses, we want to assist. While there’s never any guarantee that a case will be successful, we will do everything possible to help you succeed.
Get the Help You Deserve From Our California Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Sexual abuse is harrowing. It can have profound mental, emotional, and physical consequences. And if you’re a sexual abuse victim, you deserve unwavering support to help you through the healing process. You also deserve to know your legal rights, and how the law can protect you when you need it most.
That’s where the May Firm can help. Our sexual abuse attorneys will treat you with compassion and respect from the moment you contact us. We will help you access the support you require, and we’ll ensure you understand your legal rights.
If you have confidentiality concerns, we can assist. Every step of the way, we’ll be at your side.
We understand how crucial it is to maintain confidentiality and to encourage sexual abuse reporting. If you have concerns about sexual abuse, you should contact our law firm right away. Call now or complete our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation meeting.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not represent the current law in the recipient’s jurisdiction. The article should not be interpreted as professional legal advice from The May Firm or the individual author, nor is the information intended to substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. The article, nor any of the information included, should not be used to act or refrain from acting without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.