Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Safety of the Volunteer Peace Corps Annual Report 2007

Thank you to everyone who has given their support to this initiative – if you emailed, you’ve been added to this blog’s list of supporters! I am especially thankful to anyone who posted anything about this on their Peace Corps blogs. Thank you and please continue to spread the word! There are 8,000 volunteers serving this year and roughly 195,000 have served since Peace Corps began in 1961, so I know we have lots of other people to reach out to about making change in the way volunteers who are survivors of sexual abuse are treated!

An RPCV was kind enough to send me links to Peace Corps data that I had been unable to find in my previous searches. At that website, I was able to find the annual reports titled The Safety of the Volunteer. The most recent document on that site has statistics for 2007 and can be found at the link below:

There is a great amount of data in this report, but one item that struck me was the following, which was in the section of Other Sexual Assaults on page 10.

Trend analysis indicates that other sexual assault incidence rates have been
increasing an average of 7 percent each year over the 10-year period.
- The Safety of the Volunteer Annual Report 2007, page 10

The report continues with data of the time of day a volunteer is attacked, rates in a given month, location, etc. The report closes with a very passive “Posts are urged to share their “best practices” prevention strategies with other countries and with regional and headquarters staff.”

Peace Corps monitors safety, but it doesn’t appear that there has been a push for action. Maybe that is because they haven't heard from volunteer who are experiencing that. This is why it is paramount that the Peace Corps Community and friends of the Community need to speak up or else these situations of sexual abuse and physical violence against volunteers will not be addressed appropriately. Reasonably, we know that we cannot guarantee safety or prevent violence or sexual abuse 100-percent, but we can certainly reduce risks and revise the way that these cases are managed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead

Welcome to First Response Action. This is a companion blog to the blog I created as a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) in Southern Africa titled First Response Funny. While serving, I was sexually assaulted by a man I knew from the community in which I lived and worked. As a result of that incident, I began an unbelieveable journey through the Peace Corps system. While I feel it might be inappropriate to share my entire story on such a public outlet as this blog, I am trying to be as transparent as possible about what happened.

Why is that?

I found out through this process of dealing with the aftermath of being assaulted that Peace Corps has no formal policy on what happens with volunteers when they are sexually assaulted or raped. I kept asking and I kept getting pushed off or given misinformation.

I decided that after my inevitable return to the United States, I would work with Peace Corps in D.C., along with the help of PCVs, RPCVs and friends, to create a global policy on sexual assault and rape. From what I have been hearing, these incidences happen all too often. While I realize we cannot prevent all incidences from occuring, we can help Peace Corps implement policy that will protect volunteers in the aftermath.

My intention is simply to work with Peace Corps to create a policy that will support volunteers who are survivors of sexual abuse and other physical crime. My situation is over. I am not looking for any kind of retribution. I think it is unbelievable that Peace Corps does not have a policy on this. As a global peace-fostering organization, they should be on the forefront of this issue of sexual abuse which is a problem that not only affects volunteers, but also people in many of the countries in which Peace Corps operates.

Here is what I envision will be included in a new policy. I welcome your input, suggestions and comments! Comment on this blog or email me at
  • A Survivor Bill of Rights that outlines the process when someone is assaulted or raped. This would outline evacuation from site, medical treatment, connecting with a counselor, finding closure, information about the decision of whether or not to press charges, procedure for moving to another site and other options.
  • Training of in-country staff about issues of sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. This would be tailored to each post to address the country's cultural atmosphere.
  • A non-discrimination policy for survivors of assault and rape so that volunteers do not feel pushed out of their country of service. This would also encompass not discriminating against volunteers who press charges or not. Volunteers will be treated equally and respected for the decision they make that is best for them at that time.
  • Inclusion of the Survivor Bill of Rights in the Volunteer Handbook so PCVs have easy access to the information and have the ability to move forward within the steps if the country is not taking action.
  • The designation of an Advocate who is someone in the designating volunteer's country of service. They can speak on behalf of the volunteer if they are emotionally or physically unable to speak on their own behalf to get the support they need. The Advocate would sign a confidentiality form and be able to work with Peace Corps' medical and other staff to assist the volunteer survivor.
  • Creation of a more comprehensive curriculum to be administered at trainings that would give volunteers more information about sexual crimes and other assault (which would include specific data from their country of service). Volunteers would also participate in activities where they work on creating their own strategies for preventing and escaping possible situations of assault or rape.
  • Addition of more comprehensive information regarding this hopeful sexual assault and rape policy on the Peace Corps website (or another companion site) for family and friends of the volunteer survivor to reference.

I was lucky enough to have been trained, while in the United States prior to service, by the YWCA on issues of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. My knowledge of the psychology behind these atrocities helped me navigate through the system, but I still needed support. Sexual abuse is about power and control and my hope is to create policy that will put control back into the survivor's hands.

"Rapists are motivated by the desire to have power and control over another person, not by sexual attraction."
Source, Univ. of Minn.

I welcome your input and support! I am not tech-savvy enough to create an actual online petition, so please, if you would like, respond to this blog post either with your real name, a psuedonym or anonymously to add yourself to the growing list of people who feel that it is imperative to create a sexual assault and rape policy to protect Peace Corps volunteers. You can also email me at Your help, in any shape or form, will be greatly appreciated! To make real and lasting change, Peace Corps needs to know that we are serious and that there are many of us who want this change.

Thank you and sala sentle (stay well),