Twentynine Palms -- United States Marines pride themselves on belonging to America’s elite fighting force, but even the nation’s most highly-trained men and women can become victims of serious crimes. The Victims’ Legal Counsel provides assistance to Combat Center patrons when they need it the most.
“The Victims’ Legal Counsel was established by the Secretary of Defense, pursuant to a presidential order, to represent the interests of victims in the criminal justice system,” said Capt. John Stark, judge advocate, Victims’ Legal Counsel Office-West.
Established in 2013, the VLC was stood up to assist in combating sexual assault in the military. While they primarily represent victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, they are also available to represent victims of any kind.
“The organization really exists to make it more comfortable and more effective for victims to come forward and report a crime,” Stark said. “Everything I talk about with potential clients is completely confidential and it is my job to ensure the victim is making informed decisions and understands all of their options throughout the process.”
According to Stark, if one becomes a victim of a crime in the Marine Corps their first stop should be the VLC. While services such as the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, the Victim Witness Assistant Program and the Family Advocacy Program provide valuable resources to victims of a crime, only Stark, who is currently the sole attorney for the Combat Center VLC, is authorized to provide a victim with legal advice.
“Often times, Marines hear rumors about the legal system and think they know how it works,” Stark said. “But having someone who is well-versed in the legal system and represents your interests, and your interests alone, is incredibly beneficial.”
If a Marine, sailor, family member, or Department of Defense employee thinks they have been the victim of a serious crime, they can go to the VLC office located in building 1551, room 87, or call 760-830-5162.