Thursday, August 8, 2019

Special Victims' Counsel aren't available for everybody

Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) help survivors of sexual assault navigate the court-martial process, and as the Marshall Project notes, also serve as an advocate to help protect against collateral consequences of reporting an assault. But there is still a coverage gap in the SVC program, how to treat non-DOD affiliated civilians sexually assaulted by military members.

Generally speaking, SVC eligibility is limited to those affiliated with the military through direct, or a family member’s, service. So current rules and resources limit SVC availability, preventing assistance to all survivors where the perpetrator was military. As the Marshall Project suggests, even changing the law will not necessarily correct this gap because the military does not have the manpower to staff fully for this need.  

So while the SVC program provides a valuable resource to survivors, it will be curious to see if this hole remains. Perhaps there is a role for more robust victim advocate programs to fill this need. Employing additional victim advocates on military installations may be less costly than hiring more full-time JAGs. I know from Germany, before the SVC program commenced, victim advocates provided support to unaffiliated local nationals who were assaulted by service members. So there is a framework that could be followed, and there is unlikely to be collateral consequences for unaffiliated civilians in the court-martial system that require assistance by trained legal professionals.

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