For crisis intervention or mental distress: Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line:
1-888-429-8167

For Confidential support to post-secondary students in Nova Scotia:
Good2Talk: 1-833-292-3698
or text GOOD2TALKNS to 686868

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program for the Halifax area:
902-425-0122

Get toll-free numbers for other Nova Scotia regions

 

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Confidentiality

What is confidentiality?

  • Confidentiality or keeping something confidential simply means keeping the information to yourself.
  • In institutional contexts such as research, policy, or healthcare, there are often specific rules for how confidentiality must be maintained.

How does confidentiality relate to sexual violence?

  • If someone tells you they have experienced sexual violence, one of the most important ways for you to help is by keeping the information that has been shared with you confidential.
  • It is up to the person who has had this experience to decide who they want to tell.
  • Everyone should hold themselves responsible for confidentiality in this sense.

Who can I count on to keep my information confidential?

  • In most situations, health professionals are required by laws, policies, and/or codes of ethics to keep information about their clients confidential. This is true whether the healthcare providers work for your university or not.
  • Counsellors and therapists are examples of healthcare professionals who may have expertise in the area of sexual violence. All Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE nurses) have expertise in responding to sexual violence. If you would like to seek confidential support or advice because you have experienced sexual violence, speaking to one of these professionals can be a helpful option.
  • There are some situations in which healthcare professionals are required by law to report information that their clients share. You can ask about any limits to confidentiality before sharing information with a healthcare provider.
  • Here are some limits to confidentiality:
    • Limits to confidentiality that exist so clients get the care they need
      • It is acceptable for healthcare professionals to consult with each other confidentially when necessary for the purposes of providing appropriate care (Canadian Nurses Protective Society, 2021).
    • Limits to confidentiality that exist to prevent harm to the client or others
      • Service providers within and outside of your university are generally required to report client information when necessary to address a risk of serious harm to someone that will happen soon or is likely to happen soon (e.g., Canadian Nurses Protective Society, 2021).
      • All Canadian provinces and territories, including Nova Scotia, have legislation saying that everyone has a “duty report” when a person who is 16-years-old or younger is being abused or neglected (Government of Canada, 2019). Similar rules apply when adults are unable to protect themselves due to a disability are abused or neglected (Government of Nova Scotia, 2021).
    • Limits to confidentiality that can exist when police are investigating
      • When information shared by a client is thought to be relevant to a police investigation, a judge can sometimes order a service provider to share that information (Canadian Nurses Protective Society, 2021).

How does confidentiality matter for university SV/SA policies and service provision?

  • Every university in Nova Scotia has its own unique SV/SA policy. Video clips on this website provide information about some of the similarities and differences between three policies in our province. Confidentiality is an important element in all such policies.
  • University SV/SA policies generally include options for safety measures and accommodations to protect and support the person who has experienced sexual violence.
  • Some information might have to be shared confidentially between university staff to put safety measures or accommodations into place.
  • Many university SV/SA policies allow students to report an incident of sexual violence and ask that the incident be investigated.
    • Information might be shared confidentially between university staff to complete the investigation.
    • Information might also be shared with the person who has been accused of sexual assault. The respondent needs to know what they have been accused of and why they are being investigated for reasons of due process.
  • It is important to understand that students can seek support, advice, or information from counsellors, nurses, or doctors within or outside of their universities without starting an investigation.
  • See your university SV/SA policy to find out how to request or initiate an investigation at your institution.

For more information about some aspects of confidentiality discussed above, visit the following links:

Confidentiality of health information in Canada: https://cnps.ca/article/confidentiality-of-health-information/

Duty to report child abuse or neglect across Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/health-risks-safety/provincial-territorial-child-protection-legislation-policy-2018.html#t6

Duty to report abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in Nova Scotia: https://novascotia.ca/dhw/ccs/protecting-vulnerable-adults.asp