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Privacy and Confidentiality

“I used to live my life as an open book.  I said that anyone who wanted to spy on me could do so at their own risk, because they would probably die of boredom.  Now I’m suddenly living with a skeleton in the closet.  I’m living in fear that someone will see my call log or browsing history.”

 

Given the stigma that surrounds sibling sexual trauma, and the reality that one person’s disclosure can affect other family members, it is natural and wise to protect your privacy. If you have never worried about confidentiality before, here are some tips.

 

Private Internet Browsing 

  • Private or Incognito Browsing Mode: These all let you use the internet without saving your history, without the search bar remembering or suggesting the site, without causing sites to pop up as icons on your home page. Depending on your browser, Ctrl+Shift+N, Command+Shift+N, Ctrl+Shift+P, or look under menu options.

  • Use a private search engine, such as duckduckgo.com 

  • Erase your browsing history.

  • Consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

 

Email privacy 

  • Confidential mode (look for the lock icon) can send emails password-protected, and/or without the ability to forward, copy, print, or download (although can still be screen-shot). 

  • Consider creating a separate email account for sensitive business.  

  • Be aware that companies, managers, etc, can view the email account your employer provided.

 

Passwords 

Change them and create a unique password for any devices and accounts you use for sensitive communication

 

Contacts with offices and professionals

  • Think about where and how you want billing statements sent

  • Select carefully which phone number you give them to contact or call back

  • Let staff know if it’s OK to use voice mail or not

  • Set up your contact list carefully; for example, use initials or codes if you do not want others to see an organization listed on your phone

 

A parked car is a good place for private personal conversations or phone conversations. Or just for a good cry or scream. Even if the car is parked in the garage or driveway.

 

Social Media and Online Forums 

At some point you may find it helpful to reach out for support and solidarity online. It can be a good place to connect to others who have been in a similar situation in relative anonymity and confidentiality. Consider creating a separate screen name or social media account, if you want your story around sexual trauma to remain private from other friends and family and the world, both present and future. Be aware that posts and even comments in online forums and blog are public and searchable on the internet. Even under an anonymous screen name, be careful not to share any identifying details such as your location, specifics about your life or family, etc. Be sure that screen names you create cannot be used to link to your identity.

 

Facebook

Facebook groups that are “private” are groups which you need to request to join and be approved by an administrator in order to see group members and content. If a friend of yours, or anyone, found the group in a search and was not a member, they would not be able to see that you were part of the group or any of your posts or comments. Facebook groups that are “hidden” cannot be searched or found by anyone who is not a member. The only way to find out about and the group is by a referral, and the only way to join is through a time-limited link sent by an administrator. 

 

Reminder to Parents 

Your children may be young enough now that you feel comfortable sharing online about what has happened to them or how they are reacting. But remember that what you write will exist in some form for a long time to come. When your children are older, they may not want their story to be found online, even anonymously. As a parent you are entitled to tell your own story and get support for yourself; this can be very helpful and healing. But you may want to change or be vague about details regarding your children and their story. Be very careful to create screen names or accounts that do not have any connection to your children’s identity.  

 

If Someone is Arrested 

No communication with a loved one in jail or detention is ever private.