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Navy, Coast Guard to offer legal advisers for sex assault victims

Aug. 7, 2013 - 06:05PM   |  
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The Navy is establishing a program to provide additional support and legal counsel to to victims of sexual assault.

The Navy Victims’ Legal Counsel Program will provide alleged sex assault victims a JAG to guide them through the military legal process, according to a letter from Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, to leaders in the JAG Corps.

A captain and a civilian executive director will manage 29 lieutenant commanders or senior lieutenants who will serve as counselors, the letter said.

The VLCs will provide legal counsel to the alleged victim, explain the investigative and military justice process, and advocate for the victim’s rights. When appropriate, the VLC will be able to appear in court on the victim’s behalf, the letter said. They will also work together with sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to provide assistance to alleged victims.

The VLCs will be specially-trained and report independently to Command Naval Legal Service Command. The billets will initially be filled with active-duty and Reserve JAGs, but over the next few years, the staff will transition to strictly active-duty.

The Coast Guard launched a similar program on July 15, called the Office of Special Victims Counsel. It’s staffed with eight active-duty judge advocates, and the plan is to add four to eight more by the end of September.

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