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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Special Victims' Council established on base

by Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


3/6/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- A new Air Force program that provides legal assistance to victims of sexual assault began Jan. 28 at Scott Air Force Base.

The Special Victims' Council provides lawyers with specialized training to advise sexual assault victims, and guide them through the criminal justice system.

"My job as Special Victims' Council is to assist and educate the victim throughout the entire process and advocate for their right to privacy," said Capt. Amanda Snipes, 375th Air Mobility Wing general law chief and special victims' counsel. "As counsel, I can attend an Office of Special Investigation interview with them to answer questions and represent the client. In court, my role is to assert their rights and make sure their voice is heard."

While doing her SVC duties, she has a different chain of command.

"I'm looking out for my clients' best interests and I assert their privacy rights," Snipes said. "I have no interest in what the government or what the defense does--my only interest is what's best for my client."

The SVC program also helps a sexual assault victim to be resilient.

"It gives victims back some control they may lack through the entire process, and it helps build up their confidence," Snipes said.

"It also keeps them informed--information is power. It gives them the knowledge of what is going on or why things are happening, because they may lack the legal training."

Eligibility for this program is available to several groups of individuals.

Council is provided to any Air Force member on active duty orders, regardless of the perpetrator. If the perpetrator is an Air Force member, the adult dependent can use this program. Entry-level status Airmen in an unprofessional relationship involving physical contact of a sexual nature by faculty or instructor may also qualify for the program. Members of other branches are also eligible if the perpetrator is an Air Force member.

The SVC program is another tool for the victim and augments the services provided by the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

"The SVC is a victim-centric benefit because the lawyers are totally there to provide advice to victims, of their legal rights and what would be the best course of action," said Pamela Dorsey, 375th AMW SARC.

The SARC said that the SVC program is going to benefit Scott, as well as the Air Force in the future.

"The SVC gives the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program more credibility in the long run as people become aware that there will be a lawyer who is going to represent them," Dorsey said. "I think it's unique this lawyer is specially trained for victims of sexual assault."

Dorsey said when a sexual assault victim reaches out to the SARC, regardless of whether a he or she chooses to file an unrestricted report and get OSI involved, the SARC can give a referral to the SVC if the victim requests to seek legal advice.

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