CBS Reports and Peace Corps Responds

The ongoing controversy over the safety and security of serving Volunteers has yet another chapter. The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 mandated Peace Corps to implement policy and program changes to reduce the risk of sexual assault to Volunteers and to provide adequate support for those who were victims. The legislation created an independent Sexual Assault Advisory Council to monitor progress in implementing the legislation. The Peace Corps Office of Inspector General has also evaluated Peace Corps progress. Reports indicated that Peace Corps was moving forward but “challenges” to full compliance remained.

Kellie Greene was hired and then terminated as the first Peace Corps Victim Advocate Officer. She filed a “whistle blowers” complaint and the Office of Special Council reviewed it. The report issued by the OSC was published here at Peace Corps World Wide.

Peace Corps lacks certain sexual assault prevention measures says OSC

Now comes CBS Morning News broadcasting a report based, it says, on the OSC Report. Here is a link to that story:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/peace-corps-failing-to-protect-volunteers-from-sexual-assault-government-watchdog/

In a Press Release, Peace Corps has issued a rare rebuttal to the CBS story. Here is that Press Release:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/news/library/peace-corps-responds-cbs-news-report-sexual-assault/

January 30, 2018

“The report CBS aired on January 29, 2018, “Peace Corps failing to protect volunteers from sexual assault, watchdog says,” grossly mischaracterizes the tremendous progress the Peace Corps has made to both help prevent and address sexual assaults when they occur.

The report is factually inaccurate, uses outdated interviews, and confuses the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) with the Peace Corps’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

In addition, the report fails to acknowledge the health, safety and security and numerous other reforms the Peace Corps has made to support volunteers who are sexually assaulted. It also fails to acknowledge the enormous support the agency provides victims of sexual assault when serving internationally and when they return to the United States.

Furthermore, the report includes an incident that was not reported as sexual assault, which is misleading.

The Peace Corps is extremely disappointed with the reporting and is demanding CBS fully review the report and immediately issue a full correction.

Regarding Ms. Kellie Greene, due to privacy considerations, the Peace Corps is constrained from commenting on her personnel matter without her consent.

I ask that you consider the following points to help correct the record and give your viewers a clearer picture of the facts:

  • The vast majority of sexual assaults cited in the survey used in your reporting are non-aggravated sexual assaults (including attempts). Of all female respondents, 27% experienced a non-aggravated sexual assault, 7% aggravated sexual assault, and 4% rape at some point during their two years of service.
  • The OSC letter does not mention anything about a culture of “victim-blaming.” In response to the complaint filed with OSC, the Peace Corps OIG investigated and submitted a report. The OIG found that the Peace Corps did not have systemic issues, and that the Peace Corps did not violate any laws, when it comes to our treatment of volunteers who had been sexually assaulted. In fact, a substantial majority of sexual assault victims who responded to a 2016 survey about the care they received expressed satisfaction with the agency’s response.
  • While it’s unclear which OIG report is cited in yesterday’s story, it should be noted the OIG evaluation report in November 2016 finds marked improvement in documenting that required services were offered, requested, and provided to Volunteers who had reported being sexually assaulted compared to the OIG’s findings from 2013.
  • For a more balanced story, it would be helpful to speak with a volunteer who expressed satisfaction with the care they received. Here’s an example: https://prairiestateofmind.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/how-peace-corps-handled-my-sexual-assault/.
  • Your statement that OSC is calling for better training for in-country Peace Corps employees is inaccurate. The OSC calls for training of host families and co-workers. These individuals are not in-country Peace Corps employees. They are host country nationals who have no employment relationship with Peace Corps.  The Peace Corps provides comprehensive sexual assault risk-reduction and response training to both Volunteers and staff. Each post has two sexual assault response liaisons trained to directly assist Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault throughout the in-country response process. The agency agrees that it would be beneficial to heighten awareness of the Peace Corps’ approach to sexual assault risk reduction and response for people who interact closely with volunteers.
  • At present, all volunteer counterparts receive training, though we are always looking for areas in need of improvement.

Volunteers and trainees are contacted by the Peace Corps Counseling and Outreach Unit or an in-country provider within 72 hours of a reported sexual assault to arrange care. Peace Corps provides trauma-informed care via evidence-based psychotherapy, which is available for trainees and volunteers who have experienced a sexual assault. A broad range of options are available from counseling in a Peace Corps country to intensive treatment in the US.

The Peace Corps has provided a response to OSC and asked that office to share this document with the public.

We welcome the opportunity to provide you with additional information about the Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response Program we have developed over the last five years, in which we take great pride.”

______________________________________________________________________________

Please Note: (by J. Roll) If you would like to contact CBS News and request that they report the Peace Corps News Release, or comment on their report,  here is the email: ctmfeedback@cbsnews.com   Please make sure to identify as a private citizen.

If you would like to contact Peace Corps, the telephone number is: 1.855.855.1961 and the email is: pressoffice@peacecorps.gov

We can also support the RPCVs who have worked for years to obtain adequate funding for medical and support services for Volunteers who have service connected medical problems, for whatever reason.  Health Justice for Volunteers asks you to support H.R. 6037, The Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act. This legislation would also extend the life of the Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

 

 

 

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