Jezebel is a feminist blog. This piece by RPCV Yaara Zaslow was published on the site a few days ago. It is a profound and powerful account of what happened to her in Burkina Faso. It is also a sad story of what can happen to women in the Peace Corps.
I’d served in Burkina Faso in West Africa with the United States Peace Corps. I was raped, and because I did everything “right” afterwards-I talked to the Peace Corps, talked to the Embassy, completed a rape kit-I didn’t understand the nausea that came over me whenever I did anything aside from hide in my bed. Soon after, I was evacuated from the country with a canvas backpack and a change of clothes. I stayed home, in Seattle, for three months, while the Peace Corps did a full investigation.
In this investigation, the Peace Corps noted the three broken locks on my front door, the signs of forced entry, the mess that had been made when I tried to fight. There were photos of my body displaying fingernail cuts across my chest, bruises on my thighs, tearing up and down my vaginal wall. They found blood. They asked me if I wanted to press charges.
I have big opinions, and pride in them. Do you want to press charges? Yes, of course. Yes, always. Let’s do it twice. Okay, the Peace Corps told me. Well, you can’t finish your service. What little autonomy I had left felt like it was slipping further and further away.
So I survived by being indignant. Anger protected me from feeling those more elusive things: paranoia, hyper-vigilance, a pervasive fear of men. I saw that I had to stop drinking, because when I drank, every man looked like a threat to me. I would fight them, trying to get some sense of power back. Being violent felt better than being afraid; being aggressive and being hated for it seemed better than being a victim and vulnerable. Inside me grew a deep antagonism, perhaps misplaced, for the Peace Corps: an organization that could train me to work with others and somehow not protect me from those I was working with.
Yaara Zaslow is a teacher, writer and feminist from Seattle, Washington. To read the full account go to I Was Raped in Burkina Faso and My Rapist’s Trial Will Take 10 Years.