Army program offers support to victims of sexual assault

Sexual assault is one of the most pressing and difficult issues in today’s Army.

As part of the Army’s efforts to combat sexual assault within its ranks, it developed the Special Victims’ Counsel Program (SVCP).

The military justice process is often imposing and frightening, especially to someone who has recently been victimized.

The SVCP provides no-cost legal representation to eligible victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Representation is provided by Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC). An SVC is a Legal Assistance attorney who has received special training to provide legal representation to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The role of an SVC is to provide expert legal advice and zealously represent clients’ interests throughout the military justice process.

An SVC is a victim’s legal guide to help them navigate this confusing legal landscape. An SVC will keep a client informed of the progress of their case, translate the legal process, and ensure a client is not alone as they work through the military justice process.

The SVC’s primary duty and loyalty is to the client, not to any other person, entity, or organization — including the Army. The SVC is bound by a duty of confidentiality, which means that the SVC cannot and will not share anything their client has told them, without permission from the client. The SVC’s duties are to advocate for the best interest of the client and advise them on a range of legal matters related to the assault.

SVCs provide legal services to active duty military members, their dependents, Department of the Army Civilians, and persons in other specialized categories. Further, SVCs are able to provide support and legal services to certain child victims of sexual assault, by representing the child through the child’s parent or guardian.

Victims of sexual assault are eligible for SVC representation once they have filed either a restricted or unrestricted report. Victim Advocates, law enforcement personnel, and other first responders will provide victims with information about the SVC if the victim qualifies to receive SVC services, including contact information.

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 the victim’s testimony would be materially affected); To confer with the attorney for the government (the prosecutor); To available restitution; To information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.

Victims of sexual assault and domestic violence have a right to obtain and meet with an SVC prior to speaking to law enforcement or their command, or undergoing any medical examination.

If you have any questions about the program or are interested in retaining a SVC services, you can reach an SVC by calling 760-380-6840 or via email at jonathan.z.wan.

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