As you may be aware, the Army launched the Special Victim Counsel Program on Nov. 1, 2013 as part of the Army’s efforts to combat sexual assault within our ranks. The SVCP is designed 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 Special Victim Counsel is a licensed attorney who has received special training to provide legal representation to victims of sexual assault. The role of a SVC is to zealously represent and protect the client’s interests throughout the military justice process within the scope of representation outlined by Army regulation.
One of the most important things to understand about the SVC is that the SVC answers only to the client, not to any other person, organization, or entity, not even the command. Privilege and confidentiality rules apply, which means that the SVC cannot share anything their client has told them without permission from the client.
An SVC works to empower 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. The SVC also has an ethical obligation to protect the client’s privacy interests through the entire investigative and court-martial process. This is often accomplished by conveying the client’s wishes and goals to the military prosecutors, or trial counsel, and by filing formal motions on the client’s behalf with the court.
Victims who have filed either an unrestricted or restricted report of sexual assault are entitled to representation by a SVC. 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. Effective June 24, 2014, the SVCP will be extending services to child victims of sexual assault as well, by representing the child through the child’s parent or guardian. It’s important to note that victims of sexual assault have the right to retain and meet with an SVC prior to answering any questions posed by law enforcement or command and before undergoing any medical or physical examination. Victim Advocates, law enforcement such as Criminal Investigation Division, and medical personnel are required to provide victims with information about the SVCP, including the SVC’s contact information.
If you have further questions about the SVCP in general or are interested in retaining a SVC lawyer to represent you in connection with a sexual assault, you can contact the SVC by calling 217-7347 or 380-6840. The SVC is co-located with the Legal Assistance Office, which is located in building 288 on Barstow Road, directly across from the Fort Irwin Police Station.