Understanding Privacy, Confidentiality, and Privilege

It is often difficult for persons who have experienced sexual misconduct to speak about their experience(s). There are often feelings of fear, and not knowing who to trust. You may be concerned about what will happen if you tell someone. CAP understands these concerns. When you call or come in to speak with an advocate, you will be treated with respect. That includes respect for your privacy. The words privacy, confidentiality, and privilege are often used interchangeably but it is best to be aware of their individual meanings and how they relate to you and your experience.

Privacy

When we talk about privacy, we are talking about your right to choose when, how, and with whom your personal information is shared. You choose what and how much information you share with your advocate. There is no pressure. There is no judgement.

Confidentiality

A good way to explain confidentiality is to refer to the relationship between a doctor and his/her patient. A doctor will not reveal a patient’s information unless the patient gives consent.

This is a great way to describe the relationship between you and your advocate when it comes to your personal information. CAP advocates recognize and understand the sensitive nature of experiences with sexual misconduct, and will do   everything in their power to protect the information that you choose to share with them. The only exceptions to confidentiality are:

Advocates are required by law to report to Oregon State Department of Human Services and/or law enforcement any real or suspected child neglect or abuse (physical or sexual) disclosed to staff, when there is enough information to make a report.

Advocates may inform the appropriate person(s) or authorities if a client is in imminent danger of doing harm to self or others.  

If you have any additional questions about confidentiality, our advocates are here to help.

Privilege

Many of us have heard the term attorney/client privilege. When it comes to advocates, privilege works the same way. Privilege means that a court cannot force an advocate or the survivor/client to disclose information shared between the advocate and survivor/client. It also means that neither the advocate nor survivor/client can be punished for refusing to disclose the information. The survivor/client holds the privilege, and is the one who decides whether he/she wants the information to be shared.

Contacting CAP

Whether you call or come in in person, advocates will listen attentively and offer support. CAP advocates will speak to you about confidentiality and will notify you of your rights. When you come in, you will also have the option to read and sign the Client Notice of Rights. Please note that this is optional, and if you choose not to sign it, you will not be denied access to any of CAP’s services. 

Advocates are not required to report sexual misconduct to the University’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

You may choose what information you want to provide the advocate. You will not be denied access to services if you choose to not provide certain information. The advocate will listen and will inform you about your options.

Reporting vs Non Reporting

After an experience with sexual misconduct, feelings of uncertainty are common. CAP advocates are here to listen and to offer support. They can inform you about possible next steps. You do have options. Not everyone chooses to report their experience, and that is all right. The decision is yours, and CAP is here to support you. CAP services will be available to you whether or not you choose to report.

If you choose to proceed with reporting, there are several options available to you. It is important that you know and understand these options (and the reporting process). You should make sure that you are clear about confidentiality and mandatory reporting as they relate to these resources. Some are available for anonymous reporting while others will officially take action. For more information, see our section on Reporting at OHSU.

Campus Resources

Ombudsman: The OHSU Ombudsman, Merle Graybill, is a confidential resource for discussing campus-related issues and options for informal and impartial problem-solving. The Ombudsman can be reached at 503-494-5397. Ms. Graybill may also be reached via email at graybill@ohsu.edu but please note that emails are not considered to be confidential communication.

Joseph B. Trainer Health and Wellness Center: The JBT provides support services to OHSU students and post-doctoral scholars. It is a good (and confidential) resource for counseling and primary care. Call 503-494-8665.