Monday, September 2, 2013

Peace Corps and Sexual Assault


I received an email update this week from Peace Corps on their efforts to reduce sexual assault and the risk faced by Peace Corps volunteers abroad.  This is a highly relevant issue in Peace Corps around the world; especially in Central America where I served.  During my Peace Corps service, there were several incidents of sexual assault involving fellow female volunteers.  It was a traumatic experience that I am still processing.  I'm glad Peace Corps is taking steps to reduce sexual assault, but there is still much more that could be done.  The message from Peace Corps below:

Dear Peace Corps Family,

On September 1, the Peace Corps formally launched the final stages of our Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response program, which has been developed over the past few years in consultation with post staff and Volunteers worldwide, as well as nationally recognized experts, including recommendations from the Department of Justice; the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN); and the Peace Corps’ newly developed Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

With their help, we have developed a two-pronged approach. The first part is to reduce risks through training for Volunteers, including bystander intervention, risk assessment, and other skill-building sessions during pre- and in-service training; the second part is to ensure that Peace Corps staff responds effectively and compassionately when incidents do occur, through staff training, the new Office of Victim Advocacy, and the appointment of trained sexual assault response liaisons at each post.

This new strategy incorporates more than 30 policy changes, extensive training for Volunteers and staff, and new clearly defined procedures for reducing the risk of sexual assault and responding to Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault. The program exceeds the requirements of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, signed by President Obama in November 2011, reflecting our ironclad commitment to the physical and emotional well-being of every single Volunteer.

We are working hard to make sure each and every Volunteer is familiar with these program changes. As with any new policy, there will be some adjustments, but I strongly believe the steps we have taken will result in better outcomes for our Volunteers. We will continue to evaluate the impact of this program as it is fully implemented and make adjustments as necessary.  For more information on Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response program, visit this link.

With warmest regards,
Carrie Hessler-Radelet
Acting Peace Corps Director
RPCV/Western Samoa, 1981–83