New Office of Special Victims Counsel will assist sexual assault victims

Logos representing the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Health, Safety & Work-Life, the teal ribbon signifiying the military's commitment to eliminating sexual assault, and the seal of the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Parker.

“As I stated in Shipmates 19, every Coast Guardsman (Active Duty, Reserve, Civilian, Auxiliary) has a duty to respect their shipmates and that duty demands courage. We will not tolerate sexual assault in the Coast Guard. We will intervene to prevent or halt sexual assault when we see it. We will investigate and hold accountable those who have violated the law and Service policy. We will insist that all of our shipmates live by our Core Values. And we will eliminate sexual assault from our Service” – Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp (U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategic Plan 2013-2017)

Improving the availability and quality of response support for sexual assault victims is one of four strategic goals outlined in the Coast Guard’s plan to eliminate sexual assault from our service. As part of the implementation of this plan, Rear Adm. Frederick J. Kenney, Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Coast Guard, created a Special Victims Counsel program to better protect the rights of victims in sexual assault cases. Effective today, Coast Guard active duty and reserve personnel, in active duty or drilling statues at the time the offense occurred, who report they are a victim of sexual assault will be eligible to be assigned a special victims counsel.

Special victims counsels will provide assistance to victims by answering questions about the military justice process, discussing availability of additional victim support services and engaging with the investigation and prosecution processes to help the victim protect his/her interests, rights and privacy.

SVCs are active duty judge advocates who have also been trained and designated as victim advocates and will provide legal assistance to victims in a confidential relationship through the investigation and prosecution processes. SVCs will report to the newly created Office of Special Victims Counsel at Coast Guard headquarters. The program was designed this way to prevent even the appearance of someone in the victim’s chain of command or the chain of command of the alleged offender influencing an SVC providing legal assistance to a victim.

SVCs may be requested by sexual assault victims by contacting their local sexual assault response coordinator. A listing of SARCs, including contact information, can be found on the U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program website.

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