Under the Army’s Special Victims’ Counsel Program, eligible sexual assault victims are entitled to their own military attorney. These attorneys, or Special Victims’ Counsels, provide a variety of services to eligible victims.
Services range from advising victims on reporting options and the military justice process to representing victims at certain points in a court martial. Services also include advising victims during interviews, ensuring victims’ rights are respected, providing general legal assistance to victims and referring victims to other programs as needed.
Before the SVC program was implemented, courts martial involved trial counsel (prosecutor) representing the government and defense counsel representing the accused. With the introduction of the SVC Program, three attorneys are now involved with an SVC representing the interests of the victim.
The SVC does not work for or represent the chain of command, trial counsel, defense counsel or law enforcement investigators. They are independent attorneys whose only job is to represent the victim. Where a victim’s interests differ from any of these parties, the SVC can advocate on the victim’s behalf.
The SVC forms an attorney-client relationship with a sexual assault victim. Due to the confidential nature of attorney-client relationships, victims can have candid conversations about their case with their SVC.
With limited exceptions, SVCs cannot share any information provided to them by the victim. Therefore, if a victim intends to file a restricted report of sexual assault or seeks legal advice prior to making a report, a victim can speak to an SVC without the risk of turning an unreported incident or restricted report into an unrestricted report.
An unrestricted report of sexual assault triggers a Criminal Investigation Division investigation, which could ultimately lead to the prosecution of a sexual assault perpetrator.
Currently, Fort Bragg has qualified SVCs serving in the Offices of the Staff Judge Advocate of XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, and 1st Sustainment Command (Theater).
These SVCs provide services to victims in all of Fort Bragg’s tenant units. Eligible victims are entitled to SVC representation at any point in the military justice process. Even if a victim initially declines SVC representation, the victim can change his or her mind at any point.
Eligible victims must be notified of SVC services during their initial contact with a sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention representative, CID special agent, Trial Counsel or Trial Defense Services.
Additionally, eligible victims are re-notified of SVC services when the alleged perpetrator is charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Eligible victims can always independently contact an SVC and request representation at any time.
For more information on the SVC Program, including eligibility, call the Fort Bragg SVC hotline at 308-5386 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit the XVIII Airborne Corps Legal Assistance Office Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Ft.BraggLAO.