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Talking with Others, Confidentiality, and Privacy

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Talking with Others, Confidentiality, and Privacy

It takes a lot of courage to reach out to someone else and tell them your story. For some survivors of sexual assault, family and friends can be very helpful during this time of healing. They may help you feel safe just by being near or listening. They may also be able to provide emotional support and help you connect with services. Some family and friends are not willing or capable of being helpful. It is important for you to surround yourself with people who can support you on your healing journey. 

Tips for sharing your story with others

  • You get to decide how many details you’d like to tell your friend or family member. If the person asks for information you’re not ready share, you could say something like,

    “I’m not comfortable sharing that with you right now. Please be patient with me and listen to what I am able to tell you.”
  • You are in charge of whether or not you’d like to continue sharing your story.  If at some point it doesn’t feel right or you begin to feel unsafe, you have the right to stop sharing. You might say something like,

“I thought I was ready to share this, but now I’m not so sure. I’ll let you know when I feel ready.”

  • Because of the assault, some survivors prefer not to be touched.  It is often simply human nature to want to touch or hug someone we love or care about who is hurting.  Please think about what you are comfortable with and tell the person directly if it’s okay to touch, hug or sit close to you.
  • Your friend or family member may have strong emotions in response to your story.  It is not your job to take care of them.  You can give them some resources.  You might say something like,

“I know this is a lot to take in and you might have some strong feelings about it.  Right now, I don’t have the ability to support you and help you process your feelings, but I do know there’s a statewide hotline and sexual assault service programs where workers are trained to support family and friends of survivors. Would you like to reach out to them?”


Confidentiality and Privacy  

Confidentiality and privacy are likely to be very important to you. Feel free to ask any hotline worker, counselor, therapist, organization or friend or family member about their ability to keep your conversation either confidential and private. 

Michigan law and professional rules of conduct make your conversation with some professionals confidential.  Professionals like counselors, therapists, and attorneys have rules about confidentiality. This means they generally cannot share information about you with other people without your permission. However, they may be required to share information in some circumstances, for example child abuse and neglect or threats of suicide or homicide.

You can ask any helping professional or organization:

“Can you keep our conversations confidential? Are there any exceptions?”

Friends and family do not have any legal duty to keep what you tell them confidential or private. However, you can make your wishes about privacy known to them. You can ask any support person, friend or family member:

“It is important to me that I get to decide who to tell about what happened to me. Can you keep what I tell you private?”

“Please don’t tell anyone about what happened to me without my permission.”

If they are unwilling to keep your information private, you get to decide what to share.