Story by Natalie Morehouse on 04/17/2017April 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. Timothy Ceder, 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 the Pacific Northwest to carry-on this new program. Ceder 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.
Ceder started his naval career as a general practice attorney at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, where he provided legal assistance to sailors and their families and later acted as a trial counsel for courts-martial. He then went on to become a criminal defense attorney in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, defending sailors accused of crimes at courts-martial at bases all around the Pacific Ocean. In October 2016, Ceder 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).
"Victims of sexual assault face difficult and complex issues, and the VLC Program gives them the support they need to successfully navigate any legal obstacle they encounter," said Ceder.
The VLC Program helps victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, which can sometimes become overwhelming to a victim.
"Victims come to VLC during the darkest points in their lives. As an attorney, there is no better feeling than ensuring the military justice system treats my clients fairly and with the respect they deserve." said Ceder.
Ceder is making an impact on the world as a Navy lawyer.