Giving victims a voice
Part of an elite team of JAGs, Steven “Luke” Spencer L ’09 works for the U.S. Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel providing support to victims of sexual assault.
By Kaitlin Dunn ’16
Steven “Luke” Spencer L ’09 has accomplished a lot in the past five years.
Just months after graduating from the Elon University School of Law, and looking for an opportunity to make a difference, Spencer joined the Air Force as a Judge Advocate General and was soon recognized for his leadership and service. He was selected the Company Grade Officer of the Year for Holloman Air Force Base Wing Staff Agencies in 2012, as well as the recipient of the Accelerate Award, given annually to a young officer who displays outstanding leadership, and the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service.
In May 2013, he was selected to be part of an elite team of JAGs as part of the Special Victims’ Counsel, a pilot program by the U.S. Air Force focused on eradicating sexual assault. It provides representation to victims of sexual assault in the military, including giving advice, attending meetings and interviews and helping to protect victims’ privacy. Since it was launched, all branches of the military have adopted similar programs.
Spencer, who received the Elon Law School’s 2014 F. Leary Davis Service and Leadership in the Community Award, serves at Hurlburt Field in Florida. His office has one of the largest caseloads of any program in the country and provides services to victims around the globe. Most of the cases he has worked on involve college-age perpetrators and victims and, very frequently, alcohol. While he believes his office is doing a good job, he also knows there is much to be done. “We’re doing everything reasonably possible,” Spencer says, “but it’s never enough because any sexual assault is one too many.”
He sometimes gets frustrated at the perception that sexual assault prevention is not a priority for the military. Based on his personal experience with many commanders, he knows that not to be the case. Sexual assault is not “a military thing,” he says. It’s a larger societal issue that more often than not goes unreported in the military and civilian worlds.
He believes one of the reasons for the increase in the number of cases being reported—and prosecuted—in the military is because of programs such as the one in which he works. “I don’t think we’ll ever eradicate sexual assault, but the issue we can fix, which is making people feel safe to come forward, we’re fixing it,” he says. “We’re going to keep working on that trend and making things better.”