The world for many victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, hazing and other crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) can be lonely, isolated and filled with fear.
The Victims’ Legal Counsel Organization (VLCO) was established Nov. 1, 2013 in order to provide legal advice and representation to assist victims of crime at all stages of the military justice process.
“Any victim of any crime can come into our office and we can counsel them, inform them about their rights and help them understand what will happen in the court martial proceeding,” said Maj. Gregory Funk, a regional victims’ legal counsel on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “A victim can be someone [who has] a television stolen from their barracks room, to someone being physically or sexually assaulted; we are here to assist.”
The VLCO services are intended for all active duty and reserve service members including retirees, DoD civilian employees and dependents of the previously mentioned eligible members.
In 2016, all branches of the military were directed to represent victims of domestic violence after primarily representing only sexual assault.
Marine Corps VLC are judge advocates, who are highly qualified attorneys with extensive military justice backgrounds, have completed a certified victims’ advocacy course and are required to be selected through a sensitive screening process.
With limited exceptions, the VLC attorney is prohibited from revealing information related to any conversation unless given consent from the client. They will assist the client in understanding the military justice system, help guide them through the administrative process and will refer victims to defense, legal assistance or civilian resources when appropriate.
“A lot of our clients come from Uniform Victim Advocates (UVA) referring them to us,” said Capt. Jordan Gibson, a victims’ legal counselor on MCB Camp Lejeune. “I think that it is a good first step for victims to feel comfortable going through their UVA and then referred to us to make an appointment. If the victim does not feel comfortable, they can come straight to us.”
The VLC attorney represents victims in military justice proceedings including preliminary hearings and a court-martial. They also present facts and legal arguments on their behalf through written pleadings and oral arguments to protect their rights.
“Our primary goal is to do what is in our client’s best interest and to make sure all their rights are protected,” Gibson said. “We work with our clients to make sure their voice is heard.”
For more information or assistance, contact Talana Diggs, a paralegal at VLCO at (910) 451-8519, or visit the VLCO office on MCB Camp lejeune at Bldg. 403 on L Street.