Guest editorial: Park Record coverage of City Hall staffer’s arrest risks unintended consequences
Peace House board chair
The coverage in The Park Record on the arrest of a Park City municipal employee on suspicion of domestic violence offenses risks having some serious unintended consequences for families affected by domestic violence in our community. The disclosure of a person’s name in your reporting of the incident removes all anonymity for a family, including children who witnessed the alleged crime and called 911.
The importance of confidentiality in the lives of victims of domestic violence, children in particular, cannot be overstated. Maintaining privacy is so crucial that many victims refrain from accessing critical medical and counseling services without an assurance that treatment professionals will protect their personal information from disclosure. Several federal laws include privacy and confidentiality provisions and many states prohibit the disclosure of victim information because privacy is so incredibly critical to survivors of domestic violence. This loss of anonymity potentially subjects a family to additional trauma due to the publicity surrounding a family member’s arrest. More broadly, there is concern about the potential negative impact of this publicity on the likelihood that other victims will reach out to law enforcement or service providers for support, particularly where children are involved.
The Park Record also missed an opportunity to serve the community by failing to inform in their reporting about local, regional and national resources available to victims of domestic violence.
Peace House is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence by providing emergency shelter, support services and education and outreach in Summit and Wasatch counties. Counseling, therapy, case management and advocacy are provided free of charge to victims whether they reside in emergency shelter at Peace House or not. Our victim advocates answer calls for assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year on our HelpLine at 800-647-9161. The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition also staffs a 24/7 LINKline at 800-897-LINK (5465). The National Domestic Violence hotline can be reached at 800-799-7233.
Peace House is committed to respecting the privacy and dignity of all victims of domestic violence and very strictly protects the confidentiality and privacy of all individuals receiving services. Peace House does not disclose any personally identifying individual information collected in connection with services without the informed consent of the client whose information is being sought or when compelled by court or statutory mandate, and then only in strict accordance with any procedures set forth by statute or court order.
The media can support victims of domestic violence by judiciously balancing the need to protect the confidentiality of their personal information against any need to provide public access to the information for legitimate purposes.
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