At the VOICE Center:
Your communications with the VOICE Center are protected by state law and are confidential. No one outside of the VOICE Center will have access to information about your communications with the VOICE Center without your consent, except as described in "Exceptions to Confidentiality.” Law enforcement, school administration or faculty, Student Health Service staff not affiliated with the VOICE Center, or family members will not be contacted by the VOICE Center unless you request us to do so. In addition, you have the option of remaining anonymous in your interactions with the VOICE Center if you prefer.
Are There Exceptions to Confidentiality?
Exceptions to confidentiality include legally required reports in cases of child or elder abuse and threats of imminent harm to self or others, in circumstances detailed in Montana's child/elder abuse reporting laws, mental health law, and duty to warn law. Because the details of these statutes are complex,
advocates and staff are required to discuss such client disclosures immediately with VOICE Center supervisors. If specific legal conditions are found to have been met, notification of authorities is mandated by state law.
An additional exception to confidentiality is if the VOICE Center receives a subpoena or court order to disclose confidential information. In such circumstances, the University has stated its commitment to protect VOICE Center records and is prepared to oppose any subpoenas for which the VOICE Center does not have the client's authorization for release of the information. Montana law presently offers substantial protection from disclosure of counseling records without the client's consent in instances of sexual assault, even in court cases. However, it is possible that, despite the University's efforts, a court could mandate the release of the records. If all efforts to protect the records fail, the VOICE Center would comply with the order at that point.
What's the Difference Between Anonymity & Confidentiality?
To be anonymous at the VOICE Center means that you do not give your name to the VOICE Center Advocate with whom you speak, (or you use a pseudonym) and your name will not appear on any records of your interactions with the VOICE Center. Confidentiality means that you inform the Advocate of your name, and all records of your interactions with the VOICE Center will have your initials on them. It is possible to switch from anonymous to confidential records; however, it is not possible to switch from being confidential to being anonymous.
Which Option Should I Choose?
There are many things to consider in making the decision whether to be anonymous or confidential at the VOICE Center. Such considerations may include the potential for you to be involved in court cases, your desire for services other than peer counseling, and any needs for documentation of your interaction with the VOICE Center.
Either option may have potential advantages and disadvantages for you. If you choose to be anonymous, it is unlikely that the records of your interactions with the VOICE Center would be appealed if you were involved in legal proceedings. However, if you need a copy of records for some reason, it is virtually impossible for the VOICE Center to know which of the anonymous records are yours.
If you are anonymous, the services available to you through the VOICE Center are limited to peer advocacy and information. All other services (advocacy within legal and university system, counseling, and academic advocacy including emails to professors or others) would require that the VOICE Center know your name. However, if you are anonymous at the VOICE Center, you can always decide to give your name later if you wish to receive these other services.
If you choose to give your name, your records will remain strictly confidential, all the VOICE Center services are available to you, and the records of your interactions with the VOICE Center will be retrievable if you ever need a copy for yourself or others for documentation.
An advocate can always assist you in talking through these different options and answering any questions you have so you can make an informed decision regarding the best option for you.