By Capt. Tyler Smith and Staff Sgt. Lavranz Ferioli, Air Force Legal Operations Agency Special Victims' Counsel
/ Published May 05, 2020
The Special Victims’ Counsel Program delivers victim-centered advice and advocacy through comprehensive, independent representation to sexual assault victims worldwide, assists them in obtaining support and recovery resources and promotes greater confidence in the military justice process and the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force graphic)
MacDill AFB may be affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic, but sexual assault support services are just a phone call away.
Victims of sexual offenses can call the 24/7 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Hotline, (813) 828-7272, to speak to a member of the SAPR staff, to make a report of sexual assault or to receive information about support services.
Victims of sexual offenses can utilize the hotline to receive information about reporting options and services available to them. Active-duty service members and dependents 18 years and older can make restricted reports of sexual assault, allowing them to access services without command or military investigative authorities being notified about the incident. All other reports are unrestricted, meaning the command will be notified and a military investigation into the offense will be initiated.
Referrals can be made to the Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) office for restricted and unrestricted reports. SVCs are judge advocate officers who provide legal representation to victims of sexual offenses. They can advise on and explain the military justice process, accompany victims during law enforcement interviews, help victims obtain military protective orders and even represent victims in courts-martial proceedings for certain legal issues. SVCs are tenant units, meaning they are entirely independent of all entities at their bases, including the offender’s chain of command, the local base command structure and the legal office, which is in charge of prosecuting offenders.
SVC services are available to all active-duty Air Force members regardless of whether the offender is a civilian or another active-duty military member. Dependents, retirees and DoD civilians are eligible if the offender was active-duty at both the time of the offense and the time of the report. National Guardsmen and Reservists can receive SVC services if there is an impact to readiness to deploy. Victims not falling within those categories can request and receive an SVC through an Extraordinary Circumstances Request (ECR). An ECR is an exception to policy request that determines whether someone who may not otherwise be eligible for an SVC should receive one. They are decided on an ad-hoc basis.
The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) is an installation’s primary point of contact for coordinating sexual assault services with installation-level command and unit-level command; however, any member of the SAPR team can facilitate medical support for victims, including coordinating a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) while still maintaining the integrity of a restricted report. They can also provide referrals to chaplain and mental health services and can assist victims with obtaining military protective orders.
All active-duty Air Force members, Reservists, Guardsmen and their dependents who are 18 years and older are eligible for SAPR services. Depending on the offender’s status, they may need to refer a victim to Family Advocacy to serve as the lead support organization. If an individual is a victim of abuse from an “intimate partner,” Family Advocacy is in charge of providing care and support for the victim, but SAPR services are still available upon request.
If a victim is currently deployed or away from MacDill AFB, he or she can visit the DoD Safe Helpline at https://safehelpline.org/search.cfm or can call the DoD Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5247 to locate the nearest SARC.