WASHINGTON — The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel, or SVC, program received the Federal Service Award April 9, during a ceremony at the Department of Justice here, honoring agencies and individuals who have made breakthroughs for victims of crime.
“It’s an honor to recognize all of you for your selflessness, your resourcefulness and your courage,” said James Cole, U.S. the deputy attorney general.
The Federal Service Award honors individuals for their direct service to victims of federal crime, according to the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime.
The SVC program began in January 2013, with the objectives of providing advice to victims. The program also aims to develop victims’ understanding of the investigative and military justice processes, to provide advocacy, to protect the rights afforded to victims in the military justice system and to empower victims by removing barriers to their full participation in the military justice process.
“I think this program is one of the best things we have ever done in the JAG (judge advocate general’s) Corps,” said Col. Dawn Hankins, the chief of Air Force SVC. “It’s one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever had. This program has enabled us to allow crime victims to have their rights, and really let them flourish.”
The SVC is the first of its kind to provide Airmen and their Family members who are victims of sexual assault with their own attorney, free of charge. The role of the SVC is to represent sexual assault victims through the full spectrum of legal issues they may face, including the investigation and prosecution processes.
The SVC program was initially implemented as a pilot program for the Department of Defense so the other services could evaluate the efficacy of providing victims with their own counsel.
“We all come to work every day wanting to make a difference,” Hankins said. “In this particular job, we can see it on a day-to-day basis in the lives of people.”