Do Therapists Have to Report it if They Find Out a Patient Was Sexually Assaulted?

Published: January 25, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I am 19 years old. I was sexually assaulted in the summer. If i tell my therapist that will they have to report it ? I already have very bad trust issues and it makes me scares me because i do not want to press charges. I just want to move on from it. I would greatly appreciate if i could get an answer. Thank you
Signed: Do Therapists Have to Report it if They Find Out a Patient Was Sexually Assaulted?

Dear Do Therapists Have to Report it if They Find Out a Patient Was Sexually Assaulted?,

If you are under 18 years of age and you tell a doctor, nurse, school counselor, teacher, or other professional that you have been raped or sexually assaulted, that person is generally required by law to notify the police or child protective services agency in your community. If you are 18 or over, generally what you say to a therapist will remain in confidence. One exception to this is if the therapist has reason to believe a patient is a threat to themselves or someone else.

Here are some options of how you can proceed:

  • You can ask your therapist what their confidentiality policies are. It is likely your therapist will have some kind of paperwork that reviews these types of policies.
  • Before speaking to your therapist about it, you can call a hotline for sexual assault victims. As long as you do not provide your name or phone number, it will be anonymous. You can call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area in order to get confidential support.
  • You can check with your state licensing board about legal requirements of clinical social workers or clinical psychologists in terms of confidentiality issues given that laws and policies can differ slightly from state to state.
  • Review the information contained in When Must a Therapist File a Report?


TeenHealthFX does support the idea of speaking to a therapist about the sexual assault. A reputable clinical social worker or clinical psychologist who has experience working with victims of sexual assault can help you to deal with whatever thoughts and feelings are coming up for you. A therapist should be able to provide you with a safe, private place where you can express your feelings, find ways to heal and manage the challenges you are facing as a result of the assault.

Click here for information from RAINN ((Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) on recovering from a sexual assault, including information on how therapy helps, safety planning and self-care after trauma.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX