Sexual assault is one of the most pressing and difficult issues in today’s Army. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has noted that sexual assault destroys the fabric of our force and must be addressed in a thoughtful, effective, and systematic manner. As part of the Army’s efforts to combat sexual assault within our ranks, the Special Victim Counsel Program was developed to strengthen our support of victims of sexual assault and enhance their rights within our military justice system, while neither causing unreasonable delay nor infringing upon the rights of an accused. The role of a Special Victim Counsel is to zealously represent the client’s interests throughout the military justice process within the scope of representation outlined by Army regulation. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the key aspects of this new program.
The SVC is a legal assistance attorney who has received special training to provide legal representation to victims of sexual assault. At this time, active duty military members, their adult dependents, and persons in other specialized categories are eligible to receive legal representation by the SVC. Even victims who have filed a restricted report are entitled to representation by the SVC. Victim Advocates will provide victims with information about the SVC if the victim qualifies to receive assistance from the SVC, including contact information.
The SVC’s primary duty is to their client, not to any other person, organization or entity. Privacy and confidentiality apply, meaning that the SVC cannot share anything their client has told them without permission from the client.
The SVC will work to empower their clients by helping them understand the court martial process and accompanying them to interviews, examinations, hearings, and court proceedings, as well as providing legal advice during this process.
In addition to the right to consult with an SVC, victims have the following legal rights: to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy; to be reasonably protected from the accused offender; to be notified of court proceedings; to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that your testimony would be materially affected; to confer with the attorney for the government (prosecutor); to available restitution; to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.
If you have questions about the SVCP in general or need to contact the SVC for any reason, do not hesitate to do so. The Fort Irwin SVC contact information is as follows: Capt. Joseph D. Galli, Special Victim Counsel, at (760) 380-6840 and firstname.lastname@example.org.