Tim Mak writes in the Daily Beast’s Politics section, 8.16.14, a comprehensive review of the continuing conflict between the Peace Corps and the Inspector General of the Peace Corps over the release of records pertaining to sexual assault victims. Mak gives a timeline detailing the attempt to resolve the issues. He also reports on his interviews with both Kathy Buller, the Inspector General of the Peace Corps and also an unnamed spokesperson for the Peace Corps. Read the complete article at this link:
The following is an excerpt from Mak’s article”
“The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 includes a process for volunteers to submit a confidential report of sexual assault. Disagreement over this process-the default method by which volunteers may file sexual assault allegations-is at the heart of the dispute between the Peace Corps and its inspector general. The law says that a volunteer can submit a confidential report that will not be disclosed to anyone other than those providing support services. The law does provide an exception if disclosure is required by Federal statute.
The inspector general argues that Federal law-the Inspector General Act-authorizes IGs to all records in the agency, including confidential sexual assault reports. Meanwhile, the Peace Corps maintains that it has an overriding obligation to protect the privacy of sexual assault victims. Earlier this year, after Buller complained about this problem in a congressional hearing, the IG and Peace Corps reached an agreement whereby the agency would provide additional information but would continue to withhold personal identifying information and graphic details of assaults.
“The Peace Corps respects and values the important role of the Inspector General, which is why we worked hard to reach an agreement,” a Peace Corps spokeswoman told the Beast. “We are committed to working with the Inspector General to ensure rigorous oversight while protecting the confidentiality and privacy of volunteers who are sexually assaulted.” Although an agreement has been reached in theory, Peace Corps policy has not been updated to reflect it, leading to what the inspector general’s office said was an “information blackout” on sexual assault reports.
The inspector general also continues to assert that it needs all records, including personal identifying information and graphic details of assaults, in order to properly oversee the agency’s response to sexual assault.
“[We need] to know what happened to the victim to evaluate whether [the Peace Corps] properly responded to the incident and whether the agency adequately categorized the incident as a rape, aggravated sexual assault, or sexual assault,” said Buller.
There is no evidence that the Peace Corps is deliberately stonewalling, or declining to provide information simply to be difficult. In fact, they were swift in providing unflattering information in response to the Daily Beast’s inquiries. One spokesperson even worked late into the night to compile statistics related to Peace Corps safety.”
There is correspondence outlining this issue that is the topic of the article. In April, Inspector General Buller wrote to Senator Grassley about her concerns. That letter was released by the OIG in response to a FOIA request. Read the letter. roll_foia_request_for_release-6Roll_FOIA_request_for_release-6.pdf
In response to the letter, Senator Grassley placed a hold on the nomination of Carrie Radelet-Hessler’s appointment as Director of the Peace Corps. The Senator released this hold after a Memorandum of Understanding was reached between the Peace Corps agency and the Inspector General of the Peace Corps. Read Senator’s Grassley’s statement removing the hold.
Evidently, the problems are not resolved. On August 5, Senator Grassley Office released a letter from a number of Inspector Generals to Congress recounting concerns about agencies cooperation. Inspector General of the Peace Corps Kathy Buller was a signatory of that letter. Read the letter here: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/issues/upload/IG%20Access%20Letter%20to%20Congress%2008-05-2014.pdf
All of this is occurring at a time that Director Hessler-Radelet has embarked on an ambitious plan to increase applications to the Peace Corps by publicizing all the changes that have been made to improve safety, security and health care for Peace Corps Volunteers. The application process has also been modernized.
As RPCV, I believe that both Director Hessler-Radelet and Inspector General Kathy Buller have the same goal: The best possible safe and healthy environment for allPeace Corps Volunteers. I hope that a resolution of the problems can be found quickly and that goal can be achieved.