Yokota SVC continues military trend against sexual assault

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Department of Defense is doing whatever it can to end sexual assault in the military, and a big part of that is supporting victims, according to the top legal officers on the Armed Services Committee. Special victim counsels were introduced to the Air Force culture Jan. 28, 2013 and serve in the fight against sexual assault.

Since that introduction, Air Force installations throughout the globe added SVCs to their support teams. Yokota is one of those bases.

Capt. Bradley Mumford, 374th Airlift Wing Assistant Staff Judge Advocate and Yokota Special Victims' Counsel, said the program offers legal support and advice to sexual assault victims and promotes resiliency among them.

Mumford is currently working part-time, filling the role of counsel as well as working for the wing legal office. At the end of May, Mumford will conduct a personal change of agency into a full-time SVC role. He will attend a course at the Air Force Judge Advocate General's School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The 5-day course will teach Mumford, a three-year experienced military attorney and prosecutor, more about the program and what role he will play as a counsel.

"At my last base, I was chief of military justice. That is one of the big things that I think this program offers, is that it helps victims understand what happens throughout the military legal process," Mumford said. "That seems to be unknown for victims."

With some exceptions, the Air Force program is open to service members and their depends who are eligible for legal assistance at an Air Force base and has been victim to sexual assault, according to Mumford, who also said the program will help inform victims about the military process, the options available to them and give advice if needed. If a victim is unsure of their eligibility, Mumford recommends they ask him or the SARC for more direction.

"It will help victims of sexual assault know that they don't have to go through the process by themselves," Mumford said, speaking about the SVC program. "Victims don't always know the avenues available to them. They don't know how to make their voice heard in the process. Having a SVC will help ensure that their voice and opinion is heard from the decision makers, prosecutors and commanders."

Getting help from an SVC requires the victim to make a formal request, which is sent to the SVC Program Office in Washington D.C. A SVC is then detailed to represent the victim. Mumford said victims can come to him or the base Sexual Assault Response Coordinator to make a request, and that he won't discuss matters regarding the victim's case until he has been detailed to be their SVC.

"We coordinate needs of the victims," said Maj. Stacey Van Orden, Yokota SARC. "The SARC works alongside the SVC to coordinate any legal needs of the victim. The SARC offers SVC counsel to victims and if the victim requests counsel we coordinate the request."

Yokota is a central mark in the region, and because of the location, allows Mumford to bring his skill set to military installations throughout the Pacific. Although nothing is guaranteed at this point, Mumford said he will serve here, other areas of Japan and possibly Korea.

"I'm not far from anywhere [in the Pacific], so having the counsel here will allow us to maximize the impact of the program by offering our services to other bases in the region," Mumford added.

So far, Mumford said his experiences were positive and his clients benefitted from the program.

"I think that is a huge benefit for my clients to have somebody they can talk to confidentially," he added. "Their understanding of the process has increased and that has decreased the amount of stress imposed on them."

Van Orden said the SVC is a great program and will improve the military community.

"Strengthening our support to victims in this way will result in a more robust opportunity for victims to be heard, to retain and take advantage of their rights, and enhance the military justice system while neither causing unreasonable delay nor infringing upon the rights of an accused," Van Orden added.

If an individual has questions or concerns regarding the SVC program, contact Mumford at 225-8069. If an individual is a victim of sexual assault and would like someone to talk to, call the 24-hour sexual assault response hotline at 225-7272.