You’re not alone; MacDill’s Victims Counsel is here to help

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

The legal process for sexual assault and domestic violence victims can be a scary and difficult task, but it’s not one victims need to navigate alone.

“Our job is to make sure that the laws protecting them [the victims] are being followed,” said Maj. Contessa Monroe, Victims Counsel attorney “For example, rape shield laws ensure that certain characteristics such as past relationships and clothing choice aren’t considered in court. We’re there to make sure that this type of information isn’t pulled out illegally during legal meetings.”

Together Monroe and Staff Sgt. Jammell Jefferson, Victims Counsel paralegal, handle cases nationwide with primary clients at MacDill AFB, Patrick Space Force Base and Homestead Air Reserve Base. The team spends their time walking the victim through the legal system, providing aid with everything from an Air Force Office of Special Investigations interview to testifying in a trial.

“The majority of our referrals come from OSI, the Sexaul Assault Prevention and Response office and occasionally first sergeants,” said Monroe. “The reason we only accept referrals is we only have jurisdiction over a certain range of cases.”

To receive full legal aid from the Victims Counsel, clients must meet certain criteria first. The victim must be an active duty service member or a dependent. In addition, the alleged must also be an active duty service member. If a victim does not meet the criteria, the Victims Counsel will do their best to assist in finding proper representation for each individual case.

“We go through [with our client] and discuss all the evidence that we have,” said Monroe. “We decide together what path fits best and what course the available evidence will allow for. Sometimes the best course isn’t pursuing a trial, sometimes it's as simple as having a discussion with the unit’s leadership to develop a plan to move forward.”

The team offers both restricted and unrestricted reporting, giving victims the opportunity to document an incident without proceeding further in the legal system. Restricted reporting is an avenue that allows a victim the ability to access resources without seeking reconciliation with the other party using the legal system. Unrestricted reporting provides the same resources and more, however, it requires an investigation be opened with OSI. Some longer term and more permanent avenues, such as an expedited transfer, require an unrestricted report in order to qualify.

The primary goal of the Victims Counsel is to take whichever legal course best aligns with the needs of the victim. The legal process can be scary, but the Victims Counsel is here to help military service members and their families through each step of the process.

The Victims Counsel is located at 2706 Florida Keys Avenue, across the street from the fire department. To schedule an appointment to speak with the Victims Counsel or receive more information on the resources available, please call (813) 828-2579.