Health & Safety

January 11, 2013

AF to provide dedicated legal counsel to sexual assault victims

Rich Lamance
Air Force News Service

WASHINGTON (AFNS)  — A new Air Force pilot program designed to provide legal assistance to victims of sexual assault will begin later this month.

The Special Victims’ Counsel Program will give sexual assault victims legal assistance and help them navigate the criminal justice system with lawyers trained to handle their unique needs.

“It takes a strong team to succeed in our mission to protect and defend the nation, and sexual assault undermines that,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “It’s devastating to those involved. The Special Victims’ Counsel will provide victims of sexual assault with a better understanding of the criminal process from an expert who is specially qualified to represent the victim. This program embodies what the Air Force is all about — taking care of our people.”

Experience shows that when victims believe that their actions leading to the assault are the subject of excessive scrutiny, they become upset and less willing to pursue their allegations. Some felt re-victimized by a process designed to hold offenders accountable — in essence, they felt blamed for what happened to them.

“Victims, who are dealing with a sense of loss of control and sometimes post traumatic stress disorder, are often overwhelmed by what can be a grueling and lengthy criminal process,” said Lt. Gen. Richard C. Harding, the Air Force Judge Advocate General. “With legal counsel providing greater support and advocacy throughout the investigatory and trial process, most victims will not walk away feeling victimized a second time.”

Harding hopes that the program will help victims combat anxiety and will assist them in navigating the investigatory and military justice processes.

“Building victim resiliency benefits both the victims, who will have someone representing their interests, and the Air Force,” the general said. “The program will help uphold victims’ rights and services available to support and identify gaps in victims’ services.”

The program will provide 60 specially-trained attorneys Air Force-wide who will be placed geographically and who are certified trial counsel and expressed a desire to help victims of sexual assault.

According to Harding, the specialized training gives the attorneys in-depth training from experts in military justice and legal ethics, as well as from a civilian expert on counsel for victims. The course also provided practical exercises designed to familiarize the attorneys with potential scenarios they will encounter in the field.

Harding said he sees a three-step process to providing assistance to victims. “First we will begin offering victims counsel services with counsel in existing legal offices starting on 28 January. The program will provide an information sharing network to build upon ‘best practices.’ Second, we expect to standup a new, independent organization similar to the structure of our area defense counsel with additional manpower this summer. And third, as we gain experience, we will continue to refine and improve our rules of practice and training curriculum.”

Harding added that the creation of a program to address the needs of the victim is long overdue, and he feels that this new program will go a long way in supporting victims and their rights while at the same time protecting the due process rights of the accused.

In talking about the courtroom in sexual assault cases, Harding pointed out that, “Prosecutors represent the government and even though the interests of the government and victims frequently align, prosecutors are unable to provide legal representation to victims. Because of the unfamiliarity with the criminal and military justice process, victims can feel overwhelmed with lengthy interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors and defense counsel. Special Victims’ Counsel will help them understand the importance of separate interviews with different personnel in the military justice process and help protect their privacy and prevent unnecessary disclosure of intimate details. If you are a victim of sexual assault, the Special Victims’ Counsel is your attorney — you have complete attorney-client confidentiality and they will zealously advocate on your behalf.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
12AF_pict

AFSOUTH medics arrive in Belize to facilitate obstetrics course

Three International Health Specialists and three non-governmental organization personnel supporting the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) arrived in Belize to facilitate the Global Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics Instruc...
 
 

355th FSS invites D-M to join intramurals

The 355th Force Support Squadron would like to invite all Active Duty and Department of Defense personnel to join the intramural sports program. The intramural sports program is an organized sports competition designed to meet the needs of all personnel beginning at the lowest levels. Active duty personnel have priority in all programs as determined...
 
 

55th Electronic Combat Group

The 55th Electronic Combat Group provides combat-ready EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, crews, maintenance and operational support to combatant commanders. The group also plans and executes information operations, including information warfare and electronic attack, in support of theater campaign plans.
 

 

DUI in Arizona: You can’t afford it

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. –  Arizona has some of the toughest drunken driving laws in the United States. The average overall cost of a DUI in the state of Arizona is around $10,000. Crazy, right? Ten thousand dollars may seem hard to swallow at first, but first time offenders often find themselves paying considerable unforeseen...
 
 

Is being good, good enough?

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – In today’s Air Force can you settle with just being good? I say, “No.” With the Air Force executing the deepest force cuts since the end of the cold war with programs such as the Quality Force Review Board and the Enlisted Retention Board, what you do and how well you...
 
 

‘Final Rule’ offers broader mental health care coverage

WASHINGTON – TRICARE military health plan beneficiaries will now have access to both TRICARE-certified mental health counselors and supervised mental health counselors, a Defense Health Agency official said here today. In an interview with DoD News, Dr. John Davison, DHA’s behavioral health branch chief, said the so-called “Final Rule,” published yesterday, will go into effect...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin