by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs
10/9/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Power:
the strength to make a decision. Control: the means to carry it out.
These things are the currency of freedom, and it is these things sexual
assault robs from victims.
"A lot of people think sexual assault is about sex," said Air Force
Capt. Jonathan Henley, Special Victims' Counsel stationed at JBER. "But
it's not; it's about power and control."
So what can a victim do when power and control of their own body has been taken away, when their voice has been silenced?
There's a plethora of resources they can turn to, each with their own
unique role. One such resource is the Special Victims' Counsel.
In January 2013, the Air Force became the first United States military
service to institute an SVC program. The driving force behind the
program was Lt. Gen. Richard Harding, then-judge advocate general of the
"Before the SVC program was created, two of the main players in the
court process had an attorney representing them, the accused had an
attorney or two representing them, and the government had an attorney or
two representing the government's interests," said Air Force Capt.
Jennifer Lake, area defense counsel at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida,
and first SVC at JBER. "But, then you had this other person who was
going through this process, who had no idea what's going on in the legal
world and has rights, but had not been provided with an attorney to
defend those rights or to advocate for them and what they want."
While support for the victim was there, many felt that support could be fortified.
"So Lieutenant General Harding came up with the idea of appointing an
attorney to represent the victim and what the victim wants," Lake said.
"This way, the victim's voice can be heard throughout the process."
So what does an SVC actually do?
As it turns out, the answer is not nearly as simple as the question. The
SVC does a lot of things, and their role largely depends on the unique
needs of the particular client.
"I have an attorney-client relationship with the victim," Henley said.
"If they're telling me what they would like to see out of it; then my
marching orders are to advocate for those desires and their rights."
Sometimes that even means not seeking a conviction.
When reporting sexual assault, there are two paths one can take. They
can choose to file a restricted report or an unrestricted report. The
SVC can help with either case, however, the capacity they serve in
depends on the type of case the victim has filed.
The main difference between the two is that an unrestricted report may
spark a legal investigation process, whereas a restricted report does
In both cases, privacy and confidentiality are given a high priority.
"The victims have a right to privacy," Henley said. "That is paramount
to any discussion regardless of the type of report being used."
If one wanted to file a restricted report with the Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response office, they have the option to request legal
advice from an SVC, even before filing the report.
"If a victim comes to me and says 'I want to make a restricted report,'"
Henley said. "I will go with them to the SAPR office to make that
report and be by their side the entire time."
By doing so, the SVC is giving the reporter the power to make a
well-informed decision when deciding whether or not to go unrestricted
with their report.
"My role as an SVC [in a restricted report], was to answer questions for
that person, clarify any concerns they may have, and help them
understand what the legal process is, should they choose to go
unrestricted," Lake said. "When someone goes restricted and they want an
SVC, it's typically because they want to know what happens if they go
In an unrestricted report, the SVC serves as the victim's attorney
throughout the military justice process. This relationship is completely
voluntary; a reporter of sexual assault can choose not to be
represented by an SVC or decide they want an SVC at any time during the
reporting process, Lake said.
"At any point in time throughout the process, even two days before
trial, someone could say 'I'm getting a little nervous; I think I
actually do want a lawyer, get me an SVC,'" Lake said, "Then they'll go
through that process to get an SVC."
Throughout the entire reporting process, the victim should be informed
of the benefits an SVC can provide them and advised on how to procure an
SVC's assistance. However, SVCs cannot solicit cases, so they will not
come to the victim, the victim must reach out to them.
"One big concern for victims is a loss of control," Henley said. "Coming
forward is the first step to taking that control back - I can't help
but be proud of them."
Protecting everyone's rights with the truth is key to a successful
justice system. The SVC is simply one way the Air Force continues to
refine itself so every Airman, civilian employee and family member is
equipped by their inalienable rights for the pursuit of happiness.
"I think it's important for everyone to understand the SVC program; and
giving victims a voice doesn't mean the victim's voice is what should
control everything that goes on," Lake said. "It just means they get
their say too.
"It's important that everybody's rights are protected and everybody is
represented. Everyone should get to be heard, and then we make a
Talking to an SVC very well may be a victim's first step toward taking back their power.
"They do have a voice, they have the power to make decisions and take
back the control that was taken from them," Henley said. "My goal is,
that through me, their voice can be heard."