Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
“We are all pro-Peace Corps,” says Casey Frazee (South Africa 09), “but think it is something that needs to be addressed to make it better and safer for volunteers.”
The “it” Casey refers to is the issue of sexual assault of volunteers and the need for improved policies and procedures to support survivors.
The “we” – in part – is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer working group that formed in the past nine months. The group, First Response Action, came together after Casey wrote about the issue in last winter’s WorldView magazine (“No More” by Casey Frazee Worldview Vol. 22 No. 4 Winter 2009)
Since the article, Casey says she has been contacted by many different volunteers from various countries of service, who were subjected to or witnessed the impacts of sexual assault, or from other members of the community offering support.
We caught up with Casey during our August road trip, at a gathering of the Cincinnati RPCVs. She says the advocacy group has a Board which consists of five RPCVs from four U.S. cities, representing four countries of Peace Corps service.
Casey says there is nothing in the Peace Corps Volunteer handbook which addresses the issue of sexual assault. “Peace Corps has said they are updating their materials which is positive, but we haven’t seen anything yet.”
The group has come up with a seven point plan designed to improve the information, resources and support for sexual assault survivors. Casey says that along with continuing to work with the agency, the group’s plan for the next quarter is to reach out to other RPCVs, and to members of Congress to make further inroads.
“Director Williams was really supportive, but on the lower levels, we have been hitting a lot of roadblocks,” says Casey. “We are trying to get some response on how to move forward. As this goes on, more and more people out in the field are potentially at risk.”
You can learn more about First Response Action at the group’s website: http://firstresponseaction.blogspot.com.