Explaining confidentiality and anonymity
In the policy itself and in materials and presentations promoting the policy, define "confidential" and "anonymous," and explain how these concepts pertain to the policy, university-based sexual assault services, and the limits on confidentiality and anonymity.
“Confidential” and “anonymous” are terms that we often define and distinguish for students in research methods classes, suggesting that the meanings of the terms are not obvious to everyone. Furthermore, focus group participants who were not familiar with supports like counselling services did not assume that such services would be confidential. Given the level of concern students from all cultural backgrounds expressed about their disclosures or reports becoming known to others, it is important to make sure that these terms are understood, and that students know university-based service providers must respect confidentiality. It is also important to communicate any exceptions to confidentiality, such as the obligation to report violence against a vulnerable person or danger to the university community.
Delving Deeper Resources
In the VAW Network webinar Full Disclosure: Implications for Individuals who Disclose Sexual Violence in the University Context, Root & Lunn (2019) explore "the hidden contexts and potential harm for folks who engage with university sexual assault policies in Ontario." As part of their discussion, the authors explore how survivors' expectations of confidentiality may be disappointed due to lack of clarity in their university sexual volence policies.