April 2013 Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ben DeYoung
  • 436th Airlift Wing
In late January, the Air Force launched a new program that offers a Special Victims' Counsel (composed of) qualified judge advocates (who) represent sexual assault victims. This month is a perfect time to highlight this important new support tool for victims of sexual assault as April marks the Department of Defense's 9th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year's theme is "We own it...We'll solve it...Together."

In the spirit of providing support and empowerment to victims of sexual assault, the SVC's primary purpose is to provide victims with independent, attorney-client privileged representation throughout the investigation and prosecution processes. The SVC represents the client, the victim of sexual assault, and does not represent the prosecution or defense, or fall under the immediate chain of command of either the victim or the accused. As such, the SVC is free to zealously advocate for the client's interests. Each SVC has litigation experience and was hand-selected by The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force.

Certain categories of victims of sexual assault are eligible for SVC:

- Air Force members (including reservists in military status at the time of the event) who file a restricted or unrestricted report;
- Adult dependents of AF members if (the) perpetrator is (an) AF member who file a restricted or unrestricted report;
- Other service members and adult dependents if the perpetrator is (an)AF member; who files an unrestricted report;
- Other categories eligible for legal assistance if (the) perpetrator is (an)AF member, who files an unrestricted report;
- Basic military training and technical training students in entry-level status involved in an unprofessional relationship with physical contact of a sexual nature with faculty or staff.

The SVCs' role may include advocacy to military justice actors, including commanders and convening authorities; attending interviews with investigators, trial counsel, and defense counsel; providing in-court representation as permitted by the military judges; advocacy to other AF and DoD agencies as appropriate; and advocacy to civilian prosecutors and agencies.

Victims can make a request for an SVC to the (sexual response assault coordinator), Family Advocacy Program or legal office who will forward the request to the SVC Program Office in Washington DC. Whenever practicable, the SVC Program Office will detail SVCs within 48 hours of receipt of request from the base legal office.

SVCs strive to increase victim empowerment and the ability to be heard in the military justice system by enhancing their understanding of the process and zealous advocacy on the victim's behalf.