VICENZA, Italy (November 6, 2018) -- Did you know that many victims of sexual assault have the option to have legal representation?

During criminal proceedings in a courtroom, the defendant has a lawyer and the government is also represented by a lawyer, the prosecuting attorney. Victims of sexual assault, however, have historically not had the benefit of a government-provided advocate as they are interviewed, as they testify on the witness stand, and as they move through the remaining complexities of the military justice system.

This is no longer the case. Among the U.S. Army's efforts to combat sexual assault in the military, the Special Victims' Counsel Program was developed in November 2013 to strengthen the support of victims of sexual assault and enhance their rights within the military justice system.

Under this program, if you are the victim of a sexual assault, you may be entitled to a free attorney known as a Special Victim Counsel. The role of a Special Victim Counsel is to zealously represent the client's interests throughout the military justice process, fostering victims' understanding of the military justice process and providing victims direct access to legal services. This will be accomplished by providing effective and timely legal advice, being available to assist throughout the full spectrum of the military justice process from initial investigation to convening authority action, and providing appropriate advocacy to assure victims' rights are protected.

An SVC can answer all questions you have about investigations and the legal process, including filing a restricted or unrestricted report, issuing protective orders, and requesting an expedited transfer. Everything you discuss with an SVC will be kept strictly confidential. An SVC can accompany you at interviews, legal proceedings, and assist you with many other legal concerns.

If you have any questions concerning the Special Victims' Counsel Program, please call the Vicenza Legal Assistance Office at DSN: 637-8842, Commercial: +39 0444-61-8832.