In 2013, the Air Force established the Special Victims' Counsel (SVC) program as part of a larger initiative to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive care and support. Today, the SVC program has become an integral part of the military justice system. SVCs are experienced JAGs who advise, advocate for and empower victims of sexual assault by providing them with the independent legal representation throughout the court-martial process. To preserve this independence, SVCs do not fall under installation's chain of command, and maintain strict attorney-client privilege with their clients. They help ensure that clients' rights under Article 6b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are preserved at every step of the judicial process. SVCs may assist clients who have made a restricted report, unrestricted report or no report at all.
SVCs and Special Victims' Paralegals (SVPs) assist with many victims' rights issues, including the following:
- Guiding clients through investigations
- Attend interviews with OSI, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.
- Coordinate with commanders, first sergeants, and the legal office
- Representation to protect client's rights during proceedings
- Courts-martial (trials and Article 32 hearings)
- Discharge boards
- Advocacy to civilian prosecutors/agencies
- While SVCs cannot represent clients in civilian courts, we can help ensure that your views are heard to civilian prosecutors and investigators
- Collateral misconduct (under certain conditions)
- Inspector General, Equal Opportunity, Article 138 and Congressional complaints
Victims of sexually-related offenses generally qualify for SVC services when they fall into one of the following statuses:
- AF Active Duty, Reserve and ANG members.
- DOD Civilian Employees if:
- perpetrator is a servicemember
- When crime was committed
- Active duty dependents/retirees if:
- Perpetrator is a servicemember
- When crime was committed; and
- At time of report
Even if victims do not fall into one of the above categories, they may request an exception allowing them to receive SVC services.
The Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) is separate from the Legal Office and the Area Defense Counsel (ADC), allowing the attorney to concentrate solely on the needs of their client. The SVC is also separate from SAPR or Family Advocacy as SVC’s offer legal services and does not report to local leadership. SVCs provide clients with confidential legal advice, protect client’s rights and privacy interests, explain and advise Military Justices process, attend hearings with clients and advocate for client’s needs.