March 17, 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, the Peace Corps released a brief and roadmap detailing the agency’s commitment to further strengthen its systems, programming and approach to sexual assault prevention and to improving trauma-informed approaches to supporting survivors.
Based on recommendations from the independent Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council (SAAC), feedback received during a public call for input, current research and best practices in the field of sexual violence prevention, the brief outlines how the Peace Corps will broaden its approach to addressing sexual assault. Over the past decade, the agency has intentionally and continuously enhanced its Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response (SARRR) program to address sexual violence through an individual-level public safety approach. The brief and associated roadmap detail the agency’s commitment to broaden its focus to also include a societal-level public health approach. A similar approach to sexual violence prevention is followed by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“While the work we’ve done to minimize the risk of sexual assault is critically important and has helped to protect volunteers, we are called to do everything within our power to help stop this pervasive global issue,” said Peace Corps Chief Executive Officer Carol Spahn. “By shifting our approach and tackling sexual violence as a worldwide public health problem, we have the opportunity to see the bigger picture, improve Volunteer safety and connect our training and support structures to the work Volunteers do within host communities for longer-term impact.”
The agency’s brief outlines how the field of sexual assault research has evolved and the steps the agency will take to further calibrate its systems according to current best practices and research. It also highlights how aspects of the Peace Corps’ existing SARRR program and other agency programming, policies and procedures align with this updated approach, including recent improvements made to the sexual assault case management process; standardized operating procedures for vetting and selecting host families; standardized site history files across every post; and increased transparency through the publication of country-specific health, safety, volunteer satisfaction, and early termination information for each Peace Corps post.
A roadmap accompanying the brief outlines a number of priority actions that the Peace Corps will take in the coming months and years, including investments in new staff positions, including a prevention specialist; conducting an audit to account for existing agency prevention elements; additional reporting and monitoring systems; resources aimed at ensuring trauma-informed programming and responses to sexual violence; and mechanisms to strengthen accountability to the agency’s many stakeholders.
“Violence – including sexual violence – is a direct threat to the Peace Corps’ mission of promoting world peace and friendship,” said Spahn. “We are committed to leading with our values and supporting the dignity and safety of all people within the Peace Corps network, including the community members volunteers work alongside.”
Returned volunteers who have been impacted by sexual violence, or any crime while serving in the Peace Corps, can contact the Office of Victim Advocacy (OVA), which is available 24 hours a day and can provide confidential services and referrals, by phone or text at 202-409-2704 and email at email@example.com. All Peace Corps staff members are required to immediately notify OVA when they learn of sexual violence that occurred against a volunteer during Peace Corps service.