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An Online Resource Library Supporting Professionals Ending Gender-Based Violence.

OVC Bulletin: Privacy of Victims' Counseling Communications

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Privacy issues concern crime victims throughout the criminal justice process. For example, to cope with the complicated emotions that often accompany the physical injuries and trauma resulting from a crime, many victims turn to counseling, only to find that the personal thoughts they share may be disclosed during the trial. Several state legislatures have responded by enacting laws intended to protect the privacy of communications between victims and their counselors or therapists.

This Bulletin argues that all crime victims must be able to communicate freely with their counselors. Not only is counseling helpful in moving victims toward recovery, it may be essential, in some cases, to enable a victim to escape an abusive relationship or to effectively assist in the investigation and prosecution of a crime. The Bulletin examines how a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has given victim advocates and victim service providers an opportunity to urge their state legislatures to reexamine and strengthen state victim-counselor privilege laws so victims can get the counseling they need, secure in the knowledge that their privacy will be protected.

The OVC Legal Series bulletins are designed to inform victim advocates and victim service providers about various legal issues relating to crime victims. The series is not meant to provide an exhaustive legal analysis of the topics presented; rather, it provides a digest of issues for professionals who work with victims of crime. This bulletin summarizes existing legislation, important court decisions in cases where courts have addressed the issues, and current trends or "hot topics" relating to the legal issue.