2011: Passage of Peace Corps Safety/Security Legislation
Well before the issue of providing further protection and support for Peace Corps Volunteers subjected to violence and sexual assault received worldwide media attention, the National Peace Corps Association published an article by sexual assault survivor Casey Frazee (South Africa 2009) in the winter 2009 edition of WorldView magazine. This call to action by Ms. Frazee helped mobilize the growth of First Response Action, which along with Kate’s Voice, spearheaded nationwide efforts to draft and pass legislation to address the issue.
Legislation in the Senate (S. 1280) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 2337) was named after Benin Peace Corps Volunteer Kate Puzey, who was murdered during her service after reporting on a teaching colleague who was alleged to be
sexually abusing some of his students. The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 was introduced in the Senate by Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Similar House legislation was introduced by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX).
NPCA sent a letter to congressional leaders expressing support for the legislation while offering a couple of modifications and expressing ongoing concerns about overall funding necessary to implement improvements while sustaining current programs. Read NPCA’s letter.
During 2011, NPCA included passage of the legislation in its package of requests during district advocacy meetings in August, and 50th anniversary Capitol Hill advocacy in September. Those meetings contributed to a 33% increase in congressional co-sponsors for the Senate and House bills.
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 (“A Way Forward: RPCV trauma expert says Peace Corps has potential to be an international leader in sexual assault response” WorldView Vol. 24, No. 2)
Legislation unanimously passed both chambers in the fall and President Obama signed the bill into law on November 21, 2011.
Karestan Koenen wrote an article reflecting on the evolution of this legislation and her involvement with it in the Fall 2012 issue of WorldView magazine. (“The Education of an Activist: By stepping out of the shadows, an RPCV affects change and reconnects“ WorldView Vol. 25, No. 3).