Confidentiality before money: Rape Crisis

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Rape Crisis Dunedin is willing to risk losing funding to maintain client confidentiality, a spokeswoman says.

The organisation’s nine branches met in Dunedin last week to discuss their response to changes to the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) funding conditions that would require all organisations receiving funding to pass client details on to the government.

Rape Crisis Dunedin community educator Anna Hoek-Sims said the national Rape Crisis team members had all been “quite appalled” by MSD’s decision, announced last year.

They had decided to refuse funding from the ministry if it meant handing over client information, as it could make seeking out the organisation’s services even more of an ordeal.

“Sexual abuse and rape is traumatic enough.”

She said Rape Crisis record-keeping procedures included staff taking note of why people had called, whether it was sexual abuse, rape or incest, what services Rape Crisis had provided for the client – whether it was just a chat on the phone, organising a counselling appointment or arranging resources to be sent out – and then, if the client was happy to say, whether they were a woman, man or non-binary.

However, they never asked for names or other personal details, Ms Hoek-Sims said.

It was part of empowering sexual abuse survivors that they were able to decide when and who they told their story to, which would be difficult to ensure if people had access to client’s personal data.

She said the organisation had “some questions” around who would have access to the personal data – especially as some perpetrators were high-profile New Zealanders who could have access to the information or know someone who had access to it.

Organisations will have to provide names, birthdays, ethnicities and personal details of those dependent on the clients to the ministry under new MSD contracts beginning from July.

Rape Crisis Dunedin receives MSD funding for staff wages and counselling contracts.

If it lost that, it would have to solely rely on public donations and community funding grants, Ms Hoek-Sims said.