Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act Awaits The President’s Signature
By Susan Stine on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
The White House is now the next and final stop for landmark legislation to further support Peace Corps volunteers who are subjected to sexual assault and other forms of violence.
On November 1st, The House of Representatives unanimously approved the Senate version of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act (S.1280) by a vote of 406 to zero. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the legislation which passed unanimously in the Senate on September 26th. The bill now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.
Named in honor of Kate Puzey, a 24-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer from Georgia who was murdered in 2009 in Benin, the bi-partisan legislation will provide better security and protection measures for Peace Corps volunteers worldwide. The bill will require the Peace Corps to develop sexual assault risk-reduction and response training and protocol in consultation with experts that complies with best practices in the sexual assault field. It also institutes a special advocate within the Peace Corps to address issues of sexual assault and other forms of violence against volunteers, and an advisory panel to continue providing guidance and input on this issue.
During consideration of the bill on the House floor, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the women who came forward to testify about the sexual abuse and inadequate response they received, saying they “deserve our utmost respect.” Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) who also endorsed the legislation, noted that improvements that have been made by the Peace Corps will now be codified to ensure they are followed by future Peace Corps Directors.
RPCV Congressmen Sam Farr (D-CA) and Mike Honda (D-CA) were among those lawmakers who submitted statements into the congressional record. They were joined by fellow representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX). Read the Congressional Record of the discussion of S.1280 here.
After the passage of the bill Congressman Poe (TX-2), author of the companion House version of the bill, highlighted the importance the bill will serve stating, “[the bill] is tribute to Kate Puzey and the other victims of violence in the Peace Corps…This legislation will facilitate important and immediate changes in the Peace Corps to make it an even better institution as it enters its next fifty years.” (Read Congressman Poe’s press release here.)
Senators Iskason (R-GA) and Boxer (D-CA) also released a joint press release after the passage of the legislation. In his statement to the press Isakson expressed his condolences to the Puzey family and the protections the bill will provide current and future Volunteers. Senator Boxer, a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate and a member of the Subcommittee on the Peace Corps in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee added, ”This important legislation that will help ensure our Peace Corps volunteers serving overseas have the protection they deserve.” (Read Senators Iskason and Boxer’s joint press release here.)
Speaking on behalf of her family Lois Puzey, Kate’s mother, offered her thanks to all those who made the passage of the bill possible, “We’re so gratified, and actually amazed, that it’s come to fruition, and that other volunteers will be able to hopefully serve safely, and if God forbid something happens, that they will have the support they need, which is what our family … did not get.” (Read Lois Puzey’s interview with ABC News here.)
NPCA would like to congratulate all advocates who made their voice heard in passing this legislation. Congratulations to the leadership of the Congress and the Peace Corps, who worked through various versions of the legislation to build the momentum to passage. Finally and especially, congratulations to the members of the groups First Response Action and Kate’s Voice, for their steadfast and passionate work which led to the passage of this landmark legislation.
Be sure to contact your lawmakers to thank them for passing this legislation.