Volunteer Safety & Security
- On November 1, 2011, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the Senate version of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act. The bill has been sent to the President to be signed into law. Read more
- On September 2, 2011, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) received a statement for the community from Director Aaron Williams that is in response to recent stories in the Washington Post (Crimes against volunteers vex Peace Corps 8/20/11, Affidavits of Peace Corps Volunteers describe assaults, frustration, 8/31/11). The document below includes Director Williams’ statement, as well as a summary of the measures Peace Corps has taken in the past two years to strengthen prevention of crimes against Volunteers, and to assure strong support systems are in place for them when these do occur (including links to Peace Corps’ Commitment to Sexual Assault Victims and our Memorandum of Understanding with RAINN)
- The summer 2011 issue of NPCA’s WorldView magazine published an article by RPCV Karestan Koenen, who testified at the congressional safety and security hearing in May (see below).
On January 14, 2011, the ABC News program 20/20 aired a segment titled “Scandal Inside the Peace Corps” which raised serious concerns about Peace Corps Volunteer safety and the agency’s response.
The events described on the program were tragic and troubling. As an organization made up almost entirely of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, it pains us deeply when Volunteers are harmed while serving their country overseas.
On January 20, 2011, NPCA Board Chair Jan Guifarro and NPCA President Kevin Quigley sent a letter to Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams asking for information on specific actions that are being taken by the agency to address the issues in this area.
NPCA received a response from Director Williams on January 21, 2011.
Peace Corps has also issued the following responses on its website:
- Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams’ Response to ABC World News on Jan. 27, 2011 – Jan. 27, 2011
- Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams’ Response to ABC News’ 20/20 – Jan. 14, 2011
On February 12 the Peace Corps, in conjunction with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC, hosted an open forum at Peace Corps headquarters to discuss the Peace Corps in its 50th year. Among other topics, the forum–moderated by NPCA Board Member Patricia Wand–dealt with Volunteer safety and security questions. Reporting on the event by RPCV/W can be found here.
The House Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the Peace Corps on May 10, 2011. Read NPCA reporting on the hearings in the blogs below:
Further information on the aftermath of the hearings can be found in the safety and security section of our A Better Bolder Peace Corps Advocacy page.
The House hearings generated considerable worldwide media attention. Among the more noteworthy were the following:
- Peace Corps Volunteers Speak Out on Rape – (New York Times) May 10, 2011
- Congress Urged to Increase Oversight of Peace Corps (New York Times) May 11, 2011
- Volunteers: US Peace Corps insensitive to rapes (print) video (Associated Press wire service) May 11, 2011
- Volunteers and Victims – (New York Times op-Ed) May 13, 2011
- Dealing with Rape in the Peace Corps (Boston Globe op-ed) May 12, 2011
- The Peace Corps: What is it for? (Boston Globe) May 15, 2011
First Response Action
Among the women interviewed on the January 14, 2011 20/20 segment was Casey Frazee, whose story and request for change were first published in the Winter 2009 issue of the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) WorldView magazine. A follow-up blog post interview with Casey was published in September 2010. (FRA mentions NPCA’s catalyzing early support on its blog here and here.)
The ad hoc group she formed, First Response Action (FRA), “advocates for a stronger Peace Corps response for Volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence.” The group envisions “a Peace Corps with policies that reflect best practices in all areas of training, prevention and response.”
Following the episode of 20/20, Congress decided to explore the issue further and asked a group of assault survivors to provide it with additional information from former volunteers about their experiences, prevention and response efforts, and possible policy enhancements, for a congressional hearing (see above) If you are interested in sharing your story, or would like further information, please contact Casey Frazee at email@example.com. All inquiries will be considered confidential.
Some Peace Corps Agency Resources on Safety and Security
If you have experienced sexual assault or safety and security issues during your Peace Corps service, here are some resources from the Agency:
- Peace Corps Counseling and Outreach Unit (202-692-1470). This is a good starting point for anyone with questions about a situation with a current or returned Peace Corps volunteer.
- As noted on the Peace Corps website, Peace Corps works in some of the least developed countries and in some of the most remote areas in the world, therefore health, safety, and security risks are an unavoidable part of life and of Volunteer service. Peace Corps has gathered the key points about Volunteer safety and security on the following website pages: Safety and Security in Depth for Family and Friends and What About Safety?
- In order to learn more its policies, Peace Corps has produced Frequently Asked Questions on Safety and Volunteer Support.
- An updated (May 2011) fact sheet detailing the reforms taken to improve prevention and response measures is available in the Security section of www.peacecorps.gov.
- Each year the Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security issues an Annual Volunteer Safety Report. The latest report is for 2009, dated December 2010 (Volume 11). Download the 2009 Annual Volunteer Safety Report
- Although the Peace Corps is not authorized by law to provide medical care or counseling to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, all Volunteers who leave Peace Corps service after having been the victims of sexual assault are eligible for counseling under the Federal Employees Compensation Action (FECA), the workman’s compensation program for federal employees, under which Peace Corps Volunteers are covered. Peace Corps offers three counseling sessions following sexual assault to serve as a bridge for Volunteers until they can arrange counseling under FECA, with the cost paid by the Peace Corps, not the Volunteer. FECA is administered by the Department of Labor. Full information on FECA can be found here on the Peace Corps website.
- Peace Corps Victim Advocate Kellie Greene. Kellie supports Peace Corps volunteers who have been the victims of crime.
On the NPCA Online Community
Members of the National Peace Corps Association’s online community can freely create interest area groups. Two such groups are Volunteer Safety & Security and Injured While Serving, where RPCVs can discuss “everything from FECA claims to coping strategies.”