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. Peter Dahlquist, 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 Ventura, California to carry-on this program. Dahlquist 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.
Dahlquist started his career in private practice with Cooley LLP in San Diego where he worked in the firm's litigation department. He joined the Navy in 2014 and completed his first two years in the Navy at the Navy Legal Services Office in Norfolk, Virginia. In July 2016, Dahlquist 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).
"Navy VLC are an important part of the sexual assault survivor support team. Clients appreciate having an independent legal advocate they can turn to throughout the process," said Dahlquist.
The VLC Program helps victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, which can sometimes become overwhelming to a victim.
"While it is disheartening to witness the traumatic impact sexual assault, I am proud to help my clients by promoting and protecting their rights and interests," said Dahlquist.
Dahlquist is making an impact on the world as a Navy lawyer.