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.