This problem is amplified for minors because laws and cultural expectations often require parental notification and government involvement. Youth know this and often choose to suffer in silence.
Determining Confidentiality in Your Community
Young victims of dating abuse need caring adults to act as their protectors, advocates and friends. We must find ways for adults to serve as teen allies that also encourage youth to seek help. Here are some important questions to determine whether teens in your community have the confidentiality they need.
- Are teachers and youth service providers required to report all cases of teen dating violence to government authorities? Mandatory reporting laws may be unclear about what to do when abuse happens between teens. Many governmental systems may also be ill-prepared to respond to this type of abuse. We must balance the desire to get youth “into the system” with the need to have them come forward and get effective help.
- Can teens access medical care for relationship abuse without involving their parents? To ensure prompt medical attention, laws must make healthcare accessible to minors without parental consent or notification, even through an insurance provider. Healthcare systems must also be prepared to provide these services confidentially.
- Can teens in abusive relationships obtain a protection order without parental consent or notification? Young people may choose to keep relationship abuse secret from their parents for a variety of reasons, including protecting themselves. Minors must be able to access protection orders without fear that their parents will find out about the abuse. Find out how your state’s laws measure up.
- Do local agencies have explicit, consistently applied policies on youth confidentiality? Many community organizations do not have a clear policy about whether they will serve unaccompanied minors, and if so, under what circumstances they will do so. Service providers must develop these policies and let youth know in advance whether the information they provide will be kept confidential.
How Can Policymakers Ensure Confidentiality?
- Pass laws that allow teens to disclose dating violence to counselors without triggering mandatory reporting to government agencies.
- Amend laws to allow minors access to medical and mental healthcare for relationship abuse without parental consent.
- Allow youth victims of abuse to access Crime Victims’ Compensation for medical and mental healthcare costs without parental involvement.
- Amend state domestic violence laws to cover dating relationships and to allow minor victims of dating violence to petition the court for a protection order without parental notification.
- Fund training and technical assistance for service providers, enabling them to develop organizational policies on youth confidentiality.
- Educate fellow policy makers on this important, yet often overlooked, issue by speaking loudly and often about the needs of youth in abusive relationships.