On November 29, 2011, President Obama signed the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act into law, named for a volunteer murdered after reporting the sexual assault of female students.
More than 5,000 Change.org members signed a petition to Congress and the Peace Corps started by First Response Action, an organization founded by volunteer and sexual assault survivor Casey Frazee. The reasons for signing left on the petition by current and former volunteers and their loved ones, including family of Kate Puzey, were successfully presented to the Peace Corps to gain its support for policy change at a hearing in May.
The new legislation will address high rates of sexual assault within the Peace Corps and a criticized "blame-the-victim" mentality, an important change to help the thousands of volunteers who join every year. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen presented framed copies of the legislation to to RPCV survivors who spoke at the May hearing, including petition creator Casey Frazee.
The United States Peace Corps serves in more than 70 countries around the world. For most of the last decade, the Peace Corps lacked formalized, written policies or protocol in place to respond to incidents of sexual and physical assault committed against Peace Corps Volunteers. This despite the fact that, according to Peace Corps statistics, more than 1,000 incidents of rape and sexual assault have been reported by Volunteers since 2000. As a historically underreported crime, this number represents only a fraction of actual cases of sexual violence.
While advocacy and media attention have been effective in creating initial steps to improve Peace Corps response to violent crime, the current policy does not reflect best practices in the field of sexual assault response.
First Response Action, a group founded by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who is a sexual assault survivor and managed by a board of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, has drafted legislation which would address the issue of sexual violence in Peace Corps in five key areas:
1. Enhanced Volunteer Safety and Security Training
2. Enhanced Response to Incidents Involving Physical and Sexual Assaults
3. Establishment of Victim Advocates
4. Establishment of Sexual Assault Protocol Advisory Council
5. Commission of a Historical Report by the Office of the Inspector General
Sign this petition to stand with First Response Action in calling for the immediate adoption of this proposed legislation. In honor of Peace Corps' 50th anniversary this year, we are looking to get at least 5,050 signatures! More information about First Response Action can be found at www.firstresponseaction.org.
*This petition is open to all and we appreciate signatures from everybody! If you are a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, we would appreciate it if you could also leave a comment identifying yourself as such, and giving your country and year, in addition to signing.