NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is a subject that airmen and service members are briefed and trained on. With the Air Force’s goal to reduce these incidents to as close to zero as possible, a new program was started to help arm the Air Force with the means to protect service members.
The Air Force launched the Special Victims’ Counsel Program to provide free, specialized legal representation to victims of sexual assault Jan. 28. The program provides lawyers with specialized training to advise and guide sexual assault victims through the criminal justice system.
Capt. Ryan Richter, U.S. Air Force Legal Operations Agency special victims’ counsel, and Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Pichon, AFLOA special victims’ paralegal are assigned to Nellis AFB to provide the Southwest region with full-time special victims’ counsel and paralegal support. An additional SVC is scheduled to join the Nellis team in the middle of the year.
The support spans Nellis and Creech AFBs, Nev., Edwards and Los Angeles AFBs, Calif., March Air Reserve Base, Calif., and all Air Force bases in Arizona and New Mexico. Capt. Seth Dilworth, Air Force Legal Operations Agency Community Legal Services Division Special Victims’ Counsel, is assigned to Cannon AFB, N.M., to give the region an additional SVC.
An SVC’s role is to represent victims in a confidential attorney-client relationship and ensure victims’ rights and privacy interests are protected.
SVCs can explain the military justice process and attend interviews with their clients.
SVCs can also assist Active Duty victims with transferring to another base, if necessary.
All Air Force members that were active duty at the time the sexual assault occurred, regardless of whether the report is restricted or unrestricted, are eligible for SVC representation.
For adult dependents of Air Force members, the perpetrator must be an Air Force member for the dependent to qualify for SVC representation, but the report can be either restricted or unrestricted.
Service members from other branches are also eligible for SVC representation if the perpetrator is an Air Force member and they have filed an unrestricted report.
It is important to stress that speaking to an SVC prior to reporting a sexual assault does not force an unrestricted report. Individuals can visit the SVC Office to speak with an SVC in confidence about a sexual assault and to learn more about the SVC program.
In early 2014, the SVC and Sexaul Assault Response Coordinators offices will be co-located in Building 340, which will allow sexual assault victims to receive a variety of support and services at one convenient location.
For questions concerning the SVC Program or eligibility requirements, please call (702) 652-6178.