Sexual Assault Program Response (SAPR) Victim Advocates gained valuable insight at a sexual assault general courts martial, held at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) April 24.
The legal proceedings were real, but based on a mock sexual assault case. The training event was one of many events held during Sexual Assault Awareness Month at JBAB.
Four Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) staff members from the Region Legal Service Office Naval District Washington (RSLO NDW) participated in the mock proceeding playing the role of judge, trial counsel and two defense counsels.
Following the mock trial, the naval officers fielded questions and provided answers to the SAPR volunteers, who are military and civilian personnel from various service branches and commands at JBAB. They shared key information about the process to the trial participants.
Typically, a victim advocate only has access to attorneys from the government side, but this mock trial expanded that access, according to JBAB Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Kimberly Lahm.
“The trial offered a unique opportunity for participants to learn from three different legal perspectives: the prosecutor, the defense and the military judge,” Lahm said.
The mock proceedings simulated the direct and cross examination of a sexual assault victim witness played by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Lee, a SAPR victim advocate who volunteered for the part.
Advocates at the mock trial had the opportunity to see what their clients endure in the courtroom. As a result of this exercise, they are better equipped to ready their witnesses ahead of time, according to Navy JAG member Lt. Cmdr. Delicia Zimmerman.
“This will help victim advocates better prepare victims emotionally for trial because the victim advocates now have a greater understanding of how the process works and what to expect,” she said.
The mock court case also gave legal professionals a chance to hone in on their own legal tactics.
“This exercise was also beneficial to the attorneys because it gave us an opportunity to practice our litigation skills in front of an audience which provided feedback on arguments and questions,” Zimmerman said.
In addition to providing a unique training opportunity for SAPR victim advocates, the mock trial was open to the public, with other community stakeholders in attendance.
“We provide regular training for our victim advocates and this mock trial was special training. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer it again in the future,” Lahm said.