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. Cmdr. Kelly (Lund) Armstrong, 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 Region, working in Guam, to carry-on this program. Armstrong 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.
Armstrong started her career in San Diego, California; she served as Legal Assistance Attorney and Defense Counsel for the Navy Region Southwest. After being the Officer in Charge of the Trial Service Office Northeast (TSO NE), Detachment Great Lakes, she deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. Armstrong received her Master of Law degree, specializing in Administrative and Civil Law in 2011. She went on to become a law professor at The Judge Advocate General's Legal School. In June 2016, Armstrong 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).
"As VLC, we are members of a very important support team that helps sexual assault victims become sexual assault survivors. My clients have told me that the support they receive has helped them go from powerless and lost to strong and resilient," said Armstrong.
The VLC Program helps victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, which can sometimes become overwhelming to a victim.
"I love what I get to do, helping people during some of the hardest times in their life, but I hate why I have to do it. This has been some of the most challenging and most rewarding work that I have done as a Navy JAG," said Armstrong.
Armstrong is making an impact on the world as a Navy lawyer.