Letter to the Editor

Washington Post

Published: August 26

written by Matt Losak co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund, a nonprofit that supports a Peace Corps goal to increase Americans’ understanding of the peoples served. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho from 1985 to 1987.

The Post’s coverage of the safety and security of Peace Corps volunteers ["Volunteers on a quest for due process," front page, Aug. 21] fell short of any reasonable standard of journalism. While zeroing in on volunteers who have been victims and the agency’s response, The Post failed to provide context and made the story more salacious than informative. This, as you noted, comes as the Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of Americans volunteering in the huts and villages of half the globe.

For example, The Post cited more than 1,000 rapes, attempted rapes and sexual assaults for 2002-10. How many were rapes and how many were sexual assaults and under what circumstances? Ask any victim, and she’ll tell you there’s a vast difference between them.

Where is the comparison of crime statistics in similar institutions, college campuses, the military? What about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, at our large corporations, on Capitol Hill?

You noted examples of rape and murder that shock and sadden, but this story failed to point out that they are rare. Instead, you lumped these terrible instances into overall crime statistics, making it appear as though there had been a crime explosion in the Peace Corps. Was there really?

Further, instead of characterizing the Peace Corps for having successfully fielded more than 200,000 volunteers in 149 countries since 1961 with some reasonable understanding of the unavoidable unevenness in staffing that comes with such a varied, global operation, you portrayed the agency as generally cold and unresponsive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Those of us who have proudly served in the Peace Corps are outraged whenever a fellow volunteer is a victim of crime, as are the people in the countries where we serve. We expect the Peace Corps at all times to be vigilant regarding volunteer safety and to promptly fix problems when they arise. We can all cite a time when our agency stumbled. But we can also remember with pride that we answered our nation’s call to service. Our legacy of helping people and living in peace is a fine example of the American character that deserves celebration and support, as well as fair coverage.

Matt Losak, Silver Spring

The writer is co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund, a nonprofit that supports a Peace Corps goal to increase Americans’ understanding of the peoples served. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho from 1985 to 1987.