Advocates Voice Support for New Sexual Assault, Privacy Law
August 10, 2017
by Andy Jones
The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs is taking new steps to protect the privacy of people with disabilities in residential settings who are victims of sexual assault.
The DDSN oversees the state’s network of group homes and related settings. Under the new policy, where a person with disabilities in one of these settings is suspected or alleged to be a victim of sexual assault, and has a legal guardian, then DDSN must immediately notify the legal guardian.
However, in a reversal, the DDSN will now only notify other family members and friends of the allegation of assault, after obtaining the victim’s consent.
While some current and former officials question whether the policy violates the families’ rights, Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities approves of the change, noting the increased emphasis on the individual's privacy rights.
"We think this is a positive change,” Nancy McCormick, an attorney with Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities, told the Greensville News. “The previous version provided that the parent/guardian/family representative would be notified as soon as possible.
“The current version is more consistent with individuals’ rights, especially since DDSN serves individuals with varying degrees of disability.”
The DDSN also requires that where a sexual assault is suspected or alleged that law enforcement be immediately notified, that the alleged perpetrator and victim be separated into different facilities, and the victim receive services by therapeutic counselors, among other requirements.
The full policy can be read here [PDF].
Disability Rights Washington and Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and South Carolina, respectively, and members of the National Disability Rights Network.