First Response Action Coalition Meets with the Peace Corps
It was a cold, snowy day in Washington, D.C. when four members of the First Response Action Coalition, the volunteer board which manges First Response Action, met with Peace Corps officials at Peace Corps’ headquarters. Representatives from the Office of Medical Services, Safety & Security and the Office of Special Services were in attendance as well as the Chief of Staff, Deputy Director and an official whose position is focused on examining Volunteer and staff sexual assault training during Pre-Service Training(PST) and beyond.
Casey Frazee, Karen Moldovan, Kate Finn and Jess Smochek met with Peace Corps officials to discuss the genesis of First Response Action and the current and ongoing need for policy, training, response and treatment reform. Peace Corps was apologetic to the survivors on the Coalition and the other women and men who have survived trauma and were not well-treated by Peace Corps officials.
While Casey and Jess focused on the human cost of the lack of consistency with current protocols, Karen, with her background as the Program Manager at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, focused on best practices in the field and models to work with survivors. Kate outlined resources available to Peace Corps and discussed items that would strengthen survivor support resources, such as a non-Peace Corps staff advisory committee and the review of training and support materials by best-practice agencies in the field.
Peace Corps briefed the Coalition members on their current changes in training and response to survivors. (Coalition Note: Specifics on treatment and follow-up were not discussed due to time constraints, but this is high on the priority list in follow-up conversations.)
Highlights from Peace Corps’ updates include:
- An updated handbook to replace the circa 1996 – 2004 ‘Rape Response Handbook’ is anticipated to be approved and ready to be distributed during the first quarter of 2011.
- A version of the Survivor Bill of Rights, outlining Peace Corps’ commitment to Volunteers who are survivors of assault and rape is also expected to be approved and released in the first quarter of 2011.
- Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) and Regional Security Officers (RSOs) are receiving more training and are being more rigorously managed. RSOs now need to have increased certification to serve in their positions.
- Peace Corps is consulting with other agencies on how to improve training, including the Office of Violence Against Women, the Dept. of Defense, the FBI and the American Foreign Service, among others.
The meeting closed with a commitment from Peace Corps that a designated staff member and First Response Action founder Casey Frazee will keep in contact. Peace Corps made a commitment to share the approved materials (survivor bill of rights, updated handbook, etc.) with First Response Action. Peace Corps also asked First Response Action to provide a resource list of agencies and individuals who could be catalysts for change in the development of improved protocol for sexual assault and rape.
Peace Corps officials at the meeting appeared to be engaged and committed to Volunteer safety and security.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” says Coalition member Karen about the tone of the Peace Corps meeting and commitment to continue a working relationship.
The work has only just begun.
First Response Action Coalition members in front of Peace Corps headquarters From L to R: Jess, Karen, Casey and Kate
[First Response Action advocates for a stronger Peace Corps response for Volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence. We envision a Peace Corps with policies that reflect best practices in all areas of training, prevention and response. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org]
3 CommentsLeave a comment
VISTA and CNCS have faced this issue and camplaints are handled by the EEO office. It seems that when folks, particularly staff, are away from home, and the usual contraints on their behavior is no longer present, the setting is ripe for occasional assault of persons. It should also be remembered that local laws are involked when an incident occurs; so a victim can immediately call the police.
I don’t understand your response. The issue is not about domestic Volunteers. The issue is about Volunteers serving overseas. There may not be local laws protecting foreigners, particularly women, there may not be police and there emphatically may not be working equipment to allow a “call.”
“It seems that when folks, particularly staff, are away from home, and the usual contraints on their behavior is no longer present, the setting is ripe for occasional assault of persons.”
I find this statement alarming. Are you suggesting that Peace Corps staff are responsible, in some cases, for assalting Volunteers?
Without further explanation of what it iyou mean, I believe that your comment reflects the very attitude which needs to be changed.
You know, it’s not about assaults happening to a PCV overseas, it’s really about how PC deals with the PCV. Are they providing adequate support for the volunteer. Are they pressing the local authorities to move forward? Some countries do it well, some do not. And there is little follow up for the volunteer once they are home. In this, PC can do better, and I believe they want to.