In January, the Air Force began providing independent legal counsel to all active duty victims of sexual assault. The results so far have exceeded our expectations:
The Air Force is taking the lead on providing special counsel to survivors of sexual assault, spearheading a pilot program for the Department of Defense.
The goal of the Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) is to ensure the best possible care for our Airmen, who report they are the victims of sexual assault, by providing independent legal representation through an assigned Air Force attorney. Within 48 hours of the victim requesting the SVC, the SVC will contact the victim and remains their SVC throughout the entire legal process.
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Sexual assault victims can file two different report types – restricted and unrestricted. With an unrestricted report, the government is able to conduct an investigation which could result in disciplinary action, including a court-martial prosecution of the accused.
Since the start of the program, over 300 sexual assault victims have been represented by SVCs, including 22 victims who had made restricted reports.
“Of the 22 restricted reports, 12 have made that decision to go unrestricted, a 55% conversion rate” DeVito said. By comparison, in FY11 13 percent of restricted reports were later changed to unrestricted, she said.
Read it all here (including feedback from victims).
Charles A. Blanchard
United States Air Force