Facts & Figures on Sexual Assaults in the Peace Corps

Casey Frazee of First Response sent me an email the other day, after I had posted my blog about ‘what the Peace Corps was doing now’ to handle the sexual assaults in the agency. She wrote:

 “I can send you the stat sheet from the Peace Corps but the last three years are the HIGHEST on record for the agency. The incidence rate in the Peace Corps is 5 times higher that the US rate of rape and sexual assault.

“There was a small decline in the REPORTS of rape in 2009, but the Peace Corps’ own survey shows there were another 33 unreported rapes in 2009 which is double+ the reported figure for that year.

” The Peace Corps’ initiatives are still very new and there has NOT been any PCV training yet, only staff training which was rolled out this February. The training was also not vetted by experts in the field and there is no plan in place to evaluate the training.

“I worry about the issue being mischaracterized as I still hear from women who are currently serving who have received poor response and treatment.

“I am happy to see the Peace Corps is taking positive steps, but we are far from finished with addressing this issue.”

According to the Peace Corps stat sheet:

  • Since 1961 over 200,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in 139 countries around the world.
  • Today, 8,655 Americans are serving in 77 host countries.
  • Since 1961, 269 Volunteers have died while serving. Of those 269 deaths, 23 have been homicides. (there have been 4 homicides in the last 10 years: Benin, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Philippines)
  • 66% of all deaths are due to accidents (car, plane, motorcycle, etc.)
  • Prior to Kate’s death, there were 3 Peace Corps deaths in Benin (All in the 1970s. 1 in 1973 by natural causes; 2 in 1975 — 1 by accident and 1 by natural causes)
  • The name of all Peace Corps Volunteers who have died while serving are engraved on a memorial wall at the Peace Corps’ headquarters in Washington DC. This memorial serves as a reminder to all who come to Peace Corps that the service of fallen Volunteers in an integral part of the Peace Corps’ legacy of public service around the world.

First Response Action “advocates for a stronger Peace Corps response for Volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence.” It was set up by Casey Frazee and several other RPCV women.

The website is: www.firstresponseaction.org

4 Comments

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  • I look forward to seeing the legislation introduced to give the force of law to the new policies adopted by Director Williams. I hope that the women of First Response Action are involved with drafting that legislation and that it meets with their approval.

    My concern continues that Peace Corps is so much a creature of whatever political party is in power. I think that Republican Representative Poe has an excellent grasp of what needs to be done and has certainly won my respect. However, who knows what 2012 will bring.

  • A couple of things:

    First, there is a memorial website for Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers (fpcv.org) that maintains poignant tributes to volunteers who died in service, including Kate Puzey. The site is worth a visit.

    “The Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers Memorial Project began as a very personal project envisioned by Chelsea and Donna Mack and inspired by Jeremiah Mack. Chelsea is an ESL teacher. Donna is a retired math teacher.” [from the website]

    Second, as we work on better training in cultural norms for volunteers, we need to look at how the men in our programs are being trained. Back in the day, when female volunteers complained that in-country male staff (Philippines) were coaching the males in their group on how to “get lucky” with local girls, their concerns were brushed off as being, somehow, stuffy. The men in our group (India 45) never embarrassed the women in our group with bad behavior. We had all been hammered with the same guidelines for cultural correctness.

    We 23-year-old women may have thought that our training was a little over the top in the caution department when we were going through it, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that because of the assumptions made about American women by Indian men, our best defense was conforming to the modest behavior that was the norm. It did not seem normal to us, but after one tense episode at the Taj Mahal on a full moon night early in our service, my site mate Maggie and I never wore even modest Western dresses ever again, even in the big cities. But that’s another story.

    There’s a lot of work to do, especially since the young men and women of 2011 feel much more free than we did in 1967 to behave as they like. But while the norms for appropriate behavior have relaxed a lot here, in traditional societies they have not. And what may seem commonplace to us, may seem like an invitation elsewhere.

    Habits of changing my behavior according to local sensibilities has stood me in good stead since I was a volunteer. I will go to Turkey for my first visit in two weeks. I am packing for modesty.

    Jane

  • i am interested in learning more about ethiopia.. is it a safe place for a peace corps volunteer… can anyone comment on it… thank you for your comments… carol

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