Health & Safety

July 11, 2013

Special Victims’ Counsel provides advocacy, support for sexual assault survivors

Senior Airman Jason J. Brown
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — In continuing the war against sexual assault, the Air Force recently established the Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) Program, designed to give sexual assault survivors legal assistance in navigating the criminal justice system with help from lawyers trained to handle their unique needs.

The SVCs provide direct legal advice to clients throughout the military justice process, and ensure the clients’ rights are being observed and protected by advocating on their behalf both inside and outside of the courtroom. Ultimately, SVCs aim to encourage survivors of sexual assault to seek assistance from military legal professionals.

Survivors of sexual violence can take advantage of SVC counseling upon making a report to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), victim advocate, military criminal investigator, victim/witness liaison or legal office attorney. These base agencies are obligated to inform the survivor of the availability of legal assistance from the SVC.

When the SVC office is notified by one of these agencies that a survivor requests support, the office determines the victim’s eligibility and assigns a specially-trained attorney to provide counsel.

“While we understand there are a variety of circumstances that lead an individual to report a sexual assault, such as talking to a first sergeant, supervisor, co-worker, friend or spouse, the main goal is to get the victim the support they need and allow them the opportunity to seek legal guidance from an SVC,” said Tech. Sgt. Alan Salmones, a paralegal from the Andrews Region SVC, which supports survivors from Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Capt. Dustin Kouba, an Andrews Region SVC attorney, said that even if a survivor wishes to make, or has made, a restricted report, they remain eligible for SVC support. Restricted reports of sexual assault can be made through the SARC or the victim’s primary care manager.

Air Force attorneys, like any other attorney, owe ethical duties and privileges of confidentiality to their clients. These duties come directly from state bar rules of professional conduct and the Air Force Rules of Professional Conduct, and encourage clients to make “full and frank” disclosures to their attorneys, who are then better able to provide candid advice and effective representation, Kouba explained.

“Our office, like the [Area Defense Counsel], is completely independent of the command and base legal office. We are not bound by the chain of command’s practices or reporting procedures,” Kouba said. “SVCs advocate the interests of their clients, not of the Air Force.”

In the near future, Kouba said perspective clients will be allowed to contact the SVC office directly without making a report. Subsequent meetings are covered by the same ethical rules and confidentiality agreements as reports, guaranteeing survivor confidentiality even if they ultimately decide not to use the program.

Though the SVC attorneys are not located at each installation, they remain flexible in providing counsel to clients. In instances where an SVC cannot meet with the client face to face, telephone correspondence will be the main source of contact.

“SVCs will always travel to Article 32 hearings and courts-martial, and will attend interviews if feasible. If they cannot attend, every attempt will be made to have the SVC available via telephone and advise their client appropriately,” Salmones explained. “Overall, the SVC is there to advise their client whenever the client has questions and needs legal advice.”

Counseling is available to all Air Force active duty, reserve, and Air National Guard victims who are in Title 10 status at the time of the offense and report they are a victim of sexual assault.

Additionally, all active duty and reserve members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including Army National Guard personnel in Title 10 status at the time of the offense and report that they are a survivor of sexual assault, are eligible for SVC counseling when an Air Force commander exercises jurisdiction, or when the perpetrator is an Air Force member.

All remaining categories of eligibility for the SVC program fall under Air Force Instruction 51-504, Legal Assistance, Notary, and Preventative Law Programs, which governs who is eligible for legal assistance depending on their location and circumstance.

“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 when announcing the launch of the program in January. “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,” the general said.




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


 
 

 

Free Tax Services available on Davis-Monthan AFB

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tax center opened its doors today for Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve and Public Health personnel. There are 35 volunteers at the VITA office to include 27 tax preparers with the ability to conduct 10 appointments at a time. “The volunteers here are IRS certified tax preparers,” according to Skip...
 
 

Just American: A century of Black life

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) — Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted Harvard-trained historian Carter Woodson....
 
 

Local Briefs February 27, 2015

Scholarship applications available Davis-Monthan Officer’s Spouses’ Club and the Enlisted Spouses Association are accepting scholarship applications from  Military Dependents who are: -Spouses pursuing an Undergraduate or graduate degree -Graduating High School Seniors Application packets are available at: Davis-Monthan Thrift Shop, Airman and Family Readiness Center, School Liaison Office...
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Drzazgowski)

D-M puts its agencies to the test

An aircraft crash training exercise was held at the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance range here Feb. 19. The simulated crash site was scattered throughout a two mile radius. “The idea was to test the base’s capabilities...
 
 

Defeating “Monster Mouth”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Drzazgowski) Airman Jessika Silva-Gomez, 355th Dental Squadron dental assistant, helps a child sort out foods that are beneficial to dental hygiene during a presentation at the Finley Child Development Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Feb. 24. Personnel from the 355th DS provided examples of proper...
 
 

Why Air Force Smart Operations – or AFSO?

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – RANDOLPH, TEXAS — Confucius once said that in order for a man to move a mountain he must first begin by carrying away its small stones. Now, if one is to imagine the Air Force as that giant mountain, how does an Airman begin trying to move it? That is,...
 




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