Blumenthal, Boxer, Gillibrand Applaud Inclusion Of $25 Million Special Victims’ Counsel Program In Defense Appropriations Bill

In Letter To Appropriations Committee, Senators Requested Program To Ensure Victims’ Rights For Military Sexual Assault Survivors

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) applauded the inclusion of a provision they requested in the FY2014 defense appropriations bill that would provide $25 million in funding for the establishment of Special Victims’ Counsel programs across all branches of the military for survivors of sexual assault.

Currently, the Air Force has a Special Victims’ Counsel pilot program that ensures victims’ rights are respected by providing them with independent, attorney-client privileged representation. The program was implemented on January 28 2013, and – by March 29 – had already helped 224 victims of sexual assault. The bill will be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Blumenthal said, “This funding will provide military sexual assault survivors with an advocate trained to take their trauma seriously. If military sexual assault survivors are not afforded the rights and respect they deserve, they will be less likely to report this vicious crime. Sexual assault must be reported in order to properly prosecute and punish perpetrators.”

“I’m pleased that the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has recognized the vital support the Special Victims’ Counsel Program offers to victims of military sexual assault,” Boxer said. “This program must be expanded to all branches of our armed forces to ensure that every victim who comes forward knows they are not alone during the difficult and challenging process of navigating the military justice system.”

“America is home to the world’s best and brightest, brave men and women who join the armed services for all the right reasons – to serve our country, defend all that we hold sacred, and make America’s military the best the world has ever known,” Gillibrand said. “But when our brave service men and women find themselves in the fight of their lives as victims of horrific acts of sexual violence, they deserve a justice system worthy of their service. This investment can equip victims with the support they need to give them confidence that justice can be served, and offenders can be held accountable.”