Well, What's the Peace Corps Doing About Sexual Assaults?

Since being appointed to their positions in the Peace Corps some 20 months ago,  and  months after the terrible murder of Kate Puzin, Aaron Williams and Carrie Hessler-Radelet, have initiated a series of prevention measures overseas that involve safety and security. The Peace Corps now has a reporting system to track sexual assault, and that data is used to train staff. So far, the agency says that they has seen a decline in the incidence rate of rape and sexual assaults.

Also, the Peace Corps is now  reporting that in 2009-2010 arrests were made in 61% of the rape and attempted rape cases in which the PCVs came forward and filed a report with the local police.

So what else?

Well, like always the Peace Corps has formed groups, committees, and called in the ‘outside experts.’

Lets start with the  Sexual Assault Working Group–this is an on-going group that “analyzes current agency protocols and recommends agency strategies for sexual assault risk reduction and response.”

They have also hired a ‘victim’s advocate’ who works with the individual PCVs to handle “emotional, medical, legal, and other support services’ they need while in the Peace Corps and after Peace Corps service. I presume that is someone in D.C. who sees the victim when she comes home.

The Peace Corps has written a manual: Guidelines for Responding to Rape and Sexual Assault that all the staff gets. This is a “victim-centered approach’ which has specific procedures the staff must follow to respond promptly to the incident.

They have also set up a panel of RPCVs who were victims of sexual assault, plus outside experts, to help implement their “risk reduction and response strategies.”

All of this is new, and within the last 20 months.

You can read all about this on the agency’s website, and read the Annual Report of Volunteers Safety. The last five years are on line.

Most importantly, I think, is a new training program for Volunteers that begins with pre-departure on-line training, plus pre-service and in-service training on how to reduce the risks and what to do if a crime is committed, with a special focus on sexual assault.

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  • I applaud the Peace Corps for taking these positive steps to problems that mostly did not occur on their watch. I would think that after all the criticism levelled in the past for lack of action and bungling, you could leave out the snarky tone about “outside experts”, etc. The agency was not getting it right without help so they called help in. What is wrong with that? Look at all they are doing differently. If they deserve criticism when they get it wrong, they deserve a little respect when they change for the better.

  • Good point about experts; but, as I recall, the definition of an expert is: X is an unknown quanty and sp(i)rt is a drip under pressure.

    Of course, what still galls me is that there is this attitude in our society that rape is often treated as consensual; and, of course, there is the image of American women, as depicted in our current films and books for that matter, which does encourage unwelcome advances from host country nationals.

    Again, the issue is if someone says no to an advance, the next time ot occurs, it is an EEO offense and needs to be immediately dealth with, first by removing the volunteer from the site, if there is a stalker, or a loose moraled official working with the volunteer. I would assume that every volunteer has a cell phone so that they can report their concerns to the CD, or staff person, so designated, who will listen and repond without haste, turning it over to the EEOto take the appropriate action to investigate the incident and remove the threat or the threatened.

  • David: This is IMPORTANT. Volunteers are NOT federal employees. They are not entitled to the protection offered by EEOC. If you choose not to believe me, then contact Peace Corps and verify.

    It does not help when RPCVs advocate for solution that currently are impossible.

  • From Peace Corps 5.20.11
    Data posted for the NO FEAR Act is for federal employees and employee applicants pursuant to EEOC regulations. Peace Corps Volunteers, as defined by the Peace Corps Act, are not considered Federal Employees; therefore, they do not have rights to the EEOC. Volunteers and volunteer applicants are protected under Peace Corps policies. While they do not have rights through the EEOC, they do have the option to appeal a Final Agency Decision through the U.S. District Court.
    Melanie Huckstep
    Peace Corps
    Office of American Diversity Program
    (202) 692.2139 O
    (202) 692.1251 F
    mhuckstep@peacecorps.gov

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