JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – RANDOLPH, Texas — The new Special Victims’ Counsel Program starting Air Force-wide on Jan. 28, will be expanded to Basic Military trainees and technical training students who have been involved in unprofessional relationships of a physical and sexual nature.
The SVC pilot program is designed to provide victims of sexual assault, support throughout the military justice process, by providing independent legal representation designed for victims’ distinctive needs.
“The Special Victim’s Counsel is a very important addition to the system of support we already have in place to help victims of sexual assault,” said Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command. “It is an indication of how seriously we take the crime of sexual assault and how committed we are to addressing the needs of our Airmen who are victims of this offense.”
The Special Victims’ Counsel program entitles Air Force victims of sexual assault to legal counsel. It also entitles some categories of dependents as well as sister service members who report being sexually assaulted by an Airman.
“In addition to the covered sexual assault offenses, entry-level Airmen who have been involved in an unprofessional relationship of a physical and sexual nature with instructors or staff from Basic Military Training or Technical School will also be entitled to SVC services,” said Lt. Col. Andrea R-Ferrulli, Air Education and Training Command Judge Advocate office.
Entry-level Airmen are generally those who have been in continuous active service for 180 days or less, according to Air Force Instruction.
“Sexual assault victims will now have a lawyer to provide advocacy and advice throughout the investigatory and trial procedures, a process which can be difficult and intimidating at times,” R-Ferrulli continued.
Last year, available sexual assault statistics showed 29 percent of victims who filed a report to have a sexual assault investigated, changed their minds before the trial convened and instead indicated they were no longer interested in cooperating with the prosecution. According to officials, this may indicate the Airmen had grown fatigued at the lengthy, sometimes confusing, process involved in prosecuting a sexual assault.
“By building and sustaining resiliency among sexual assault victims and empowering them to fully participate in the justice process, the program will strengthen the military justice system,” R-Ferrulli said.
Any eligible victim, whether making a restricted or un-restricted report of sexual assault, may obtain an SVC through the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, who starts the referral process. The SVC program office will assign an SVC.
There are currently 60 military attorneys trained on how to effectively represent victims of sexual assault. Each Special Victims’ Counsel is an experienced litigator with courts-martial experience who was hand-selected by The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force. They represent only the victim of sexual assault with complete attorney-client confidentiality.