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.
To advocate on behalf of these Volunteers, First Response Action was formed in 2009. First Response Action is a group created by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who is a survivor of sexual violence. The group is managed by several Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, some who are also survivors and some who are advocates for victims of crime. First Response Action’s mission is to “advocate for a stronger Peace Corps response for Volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence. First Response Action envisions a Peace Corps with policies that reflect best practices in all areas of training, prevention and response.”
Rape and sexual assault are traumatic incidents that deserve a consistent, comprehensive and survivor-centered response. Peace Corps must be prepared to train, support and respond to Volunteers who serve the United States as Peace Corps Volunteers.
Under the leadership of Peace Corps Director Williams, Peace Corps has made initial improvements to sexual assault prevention and response. However, there is nothing in place to ensure that those changes are sustained beyond Director Williams’ tenure. Peace Corps has made survivor-centered policy and protocol changes in the past which have vanished with funding cuts or leadership changes. Legislation would ensure that survivors continually receive the appropriate response and treatment necessary after enduring an assault. Peace Corps has issued statements communicating the steps they have taken to improve support for victims of sexual and physical assault.
Peace Corps has met the request of First Response Action to back legislation to cement this reformed support for survivors and to promise to work with Congress to assure its passage. I ask that Congress pass this legislation immediately so that other victims of crime will benefit from a reformed system to address sexual and physical violence and that no more Volunteers will suffer from inadequate response and treatment at the hands of a broken system.