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Special Victims’ Counsel gives clients ‘a voice and a choice

The U.S. Air Force started the SVC test program in 2013. It has now been adopted by every branch of the military.

Captain Ekaterina Korulina is the Special Victims Counsel attorney appointed to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The Special Victims Counsel offers confidential legal advice and assistance to sexual assault victims. The U.S. Air Force started the SVC test program in 2013. It has now been adopted by every branch of the military. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aaron Montoya)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - The Special Victims’ Counsel program provides Air Force Judge Advocates to represent victims of sexual assault and related offenses.

The Air Force originated the SVC program 2013, and it was soon mandated for all military branches.

The SVC team provides legal representation, offers confidential legal advice and protects victims’ rights and interests.

The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base SVC team includes Capt. Travis Brinton, special victims’ counsel, and Staff Sgt. Brandy Brewer, special victims’ paralegal.

Brinton and Brewer joined the SVC program in 2017. They work with clients from the eastern circuit, which includes several Air Force bases including Wright-Patterson.

“We are here to make sure that clients have an attorney who is there to look out for their privacy interests and advocate for their legal rights,” said Brinton. “We want them to understand the process so they aren’t left in the dark. Most victims want to have somebody guiding them through it and making sure that as much control is given back to them as possible.”

Before a client can request an SVC attorney, they should report to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office. The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator will evaluate the case, and if the client is eligible for an SVC attorney after evaluation, SAPR will refer them to the SVC office.

The SVC program offers its services to eligible service members, military dependents, DOD civilian employees or retirees if the perpetrator was subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice at the time of offense.

Active-duty members are eligible for the SVC program for any offense, regardless of the perpetrator’s status.

Eligibility is also based on location of the offense and status of the victim and accused, among other factors. Once proven eligible, a victim can choose an SVC attorney to represent them with an unrestricted or restricted report.

“Not everyone is eligible for the SVC program, but we will never turn anybody away,” said Brewer.

“We will do our best to explain a victim’s options, request an exception to policy where appropriate and refer to other resources when a victim is ineligible,” said Brinton.

SVCs understand that a victim’s privacy is of critical importance. Clients have the choice to request an unrestricted report, where the case is reported for investigation and possibly prosecution, or an unrestricted report, where the case remains unreported.

To ensure they can independently serve their clients, SVCs report through a chain of command separate from their base’s wing, Numbered Air Force, or Major Command.

Brinton and Brewer maintain their clients’ privacy by offering confidential advice, containing client information and preserving attorney-client privilege.

“We make sure that victims, throughout the process, have somebody who can provide them legal representation, who will advocate for their interests and who will make sure they are aware of what’s going on,” said Brinton. “The earlier we get involved, the better we can ensure that our client’s rights and options are preserved.”

The SVC program is a crucial part of the military justice system. In addition to advising clients and offering legal advice, SVCs present motions and arguments in courts-martial in favor of their clients’ interests.

Brinton and Brewer’s motto is “we give victims a voice and a choice.”

“We give victims the voice to speak up and give them the choice to participate in the case,” said Brewer. “We are here to help people who may have no idea where to turn or what to do.”

To request an SVC, contact SAPR at 937-257-7272 to confirm eligibility. For more information about SVC, call 937-522-3333 or DSN 672-3333.