Story by Natalie Morehouse on 04/19/2017April marks sexual assault awareness and prevention month and the military has focused much effort on its prevention and care for victims of sexual assault. One program lauded as an innovative approach to victim support is the U.S. Navy's Victims' Legal Counsel Program.
Lt. Kimi (Kato) Schultheiss, a military lawyer with the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps, was chosen as one of the Navy's Victims' Legal Counsel (VLC) in Norfolk to carry-on this program. Schultheiss provides legal services to eligible victims of sexual offenses, including assistance and advocacy in the investigative and military justice processes. The VLC Program became fully operational on Jan. 1, 2014 and now consists of 33 specially trained judge advocates in 25 fleet locations around the world.
Schultheiss started her career as a Defense Attorney providing defense services to sailors and Marines facing court-martial and administrative separation proceedings. She deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 to coordinate the transfer of 3,000 detainees in the Defense Facility in Parwan from American to Afghan custody. She went on to become the Staff Judge Advocate for the Center for Information Dominance, Corry Station, in Pensacola, Florida. In April 2015, Schultheiss was personally selected by the Judge Advocate General of the Navy to serve as a VLC.
"The Navy is committed to protecting the rights and interests of victims of sexual assault and ensuring the administration of a fair, transparent and efficient military justice system that guarantees due process for the accused and promotes good order and discipline," said Vice Adm. James Crawford III, Judge Advocate General of the Navy.
The Navy implemented the VLC Program to offer a military attorney to represent and assist victims of sexual offenses. VLC assist victims with legal decisions; represent them in military courts; advocate on their behalf to investigators, commanders, and prosecutors; and provide other legal advice and assistance connected to the sexual offense. VLC operate independently and are not within the chain of command of the offender, the victim or prosecutors. Since the Program's inception, Navy VLC have assisted more than 2,780 victims around the world (as of April 2017).
"The VLC Program fulfills the needs of many military sexual assault victims for confidential, longer-term legal advice and representation, as the process can seem drawn-out and confusing from an outsider's perspective," said Schultheiss.
The VLC Program helps victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, which can sometimes become overwhelming to a victim.
"VLC attorneys are in a unique position to advocate in court for the privacy and security rights of their clients, which is especially critical in the military due to our close quarters and unique life/work balance," said Schultheiss.
Schultheiss is making an impact on the world as a Navy lawyer.