Protect Our Defenders filed an Amicus Brief this week in support of a petition by the victim in the ongoing Naval Academy case urging the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (“CAAF”) to clarify the scope of the psychotherapist-patient privilege. While Military Rule of Evidence (“MRE”) 513, promulgated by the President of the United States, is supposed to protect the confidential communications between rape and assault victims and their therapists, in practice military judges routinely allow defendants to exploit a “constitutionally required” exception and hand over these communications to the perpetrators often without explanation or justification.
Not only does this disincentivize victims seeking mental health treatment out of a fear of their records being exposed, they often seek help under the mistaken belief that their privilege cannot be broken. It is unfair to promise victims confidentiality, only to break that promise when they seek justice for their attacks. The CAAF should rule to strengthen the psychotherapist-patient privilege, or, at the very least, clarify the lack of protection so that victims do not unknowingly rely on an empty promise of protection.
Download the Amicus Brief itself (PDF) or view it below: