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The Nuts and Bolts of Serving Minor Survivors

We know that children and teens experience some of the highest rates of sexual violence in our communities. Unfortunately, we also know that due to their minor status they often face additional barriers in accessing the services they need to heal emotionally and physically. As advocates with these young survivors, we want to make sure that our agencies and advocacy practices reduce these barriers rather than create them. Additionally, we want to ensure that young people feel safe when they work with us, and this includes having an understanding of how the information they share with us can and cannot be protected.

Each program needs to be clear about how it conducts work with young people, and each advocate within a program needs a consistent set of information and guidelines for daily work. Here are some questions that can help you assess your agency's practices and address any gaps in your policies around providing advocacy services to minor survivors of sexual assault:

  1. At what age can a minor work with an advocate without their caregiver's knowledge or consent? Who has the right to consent to the release of a minor's information?
  2. What is our agency's policy if a teen's caregiver requests information about the advocacy services the teen has received or wants to see the advocacy file?
  3. If I am working with a minor and the minor's caregiver, who is my primary client and how do I balance their individual needs and wishes?
  4. How do you explain mandatory reporting to a child? To a teen?

Ultimately, knowing the answers to these questions and consistently applying them in practice will demonstrate to the young people in your community that you are ready and able to serve them. It is especially important that you work through these complex issues proactively if you are reaching out to youth and families in your community to raise awareness about sexual assault and build prevention initiatives. Your program should be prepared to respond to the increased child sexual abuse disclosures and referrals that will inevitably result from your community awareness efforts.

We hope that WCSAP's new resource, Confidentiality Considerations When Providing Sexual Assault Advocacy Services to Minors, will address and provide answers to many of the questions that you might be asking at your agency. If you have additional needs or questions after reviewing the resource, we are happy to chat with you!

Working with minor survivors can be a very complex area of advocacy but when we do it with intention, we can have a positive impact not only on individual survivors, but also on the long-term health of our communities. WCSAP strives to support your work in this area and welcomes your feedback and questions. Please feel free to contact info@wcsap.org if you have questions about this resource or about your advocacy with young survivors.

Reviewed: March 23rd, 2016