Story by Natalie Morehouse on 04/18/2017April 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. Jocelyn Park, 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 Navy Region Southwest to carry-on this program. Park 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.
Park started her career as an attorney at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, providing legal assistance to sailors and providing defense services to sailors being prosecuted through the military justice system. She went on to be a trial counsel, prosecuting over a hundred cases from 2014-2016. In April 2016, Park 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).
"Any criminal justice system is intimidating for a layperson to navigate. As a prosecutor, I appreciated the level of expertise and professionalism that a VLC brings to the table. The VLC Program bridges that gap between what is best for the prosecution and what is best for the victim, and helps a victim to better understand their rights within the legal process," said Park.
The VLC Program helps victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, which can sometimes become overwhelming to a victim.
"What never fails to amaze me is the resiliency of many of our servicemembers who still prioritize mission readiness after something distressing has happened to them. My job is unique in that it allows me to take on the burden of worrying about the legal aspects of the case, so victims have more freedom to take care of themselves and continue on with the mission," said Park.
Park is making an impact on the world as a Navy lawyer.