Saturday, April 9, 2011

ABC News Report: Jess Smochek Honored By Congress: Peace Corps Volunteer Spoke Out About Assaults In '20/20' Investigation

A Peace Corps volunteer who spoke out on "20/20" about being gang raped while serving in Bangladesh was honored by Congress Wednesday for her work on behalf of victims.

Jess Smochek of Pennsylvania, 29, received the 2011 Suzanne McDaniel Public Awareness Award from the bipartisan Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus at a Capitol Hill ceremony attended by members of Congress and victims advocates. After she was attacked, Smochek helped raise awareness of sexual assaults on Peace Corps volunteers and what she and other advocates consider the Corps' lack of support for victims.

"Thanks to the courage and determination of Jessica Smochek," said Rep. Ted Poe, R.-Texas, co-chair of the Caucus, "the mistreatment of victims of violence and the inadequate response from the Peace Corps has captured the attention of the nation" Rep. Poe, who hosted Wednesday's event along with Caucus co-chair Rep. Jim Costa, D.-California, called Smochek's advocacy on behalf of victims "inspiring" and said that because of her Congress will have hearings next month "to hold the Peace Corps accountable" for the safety of volunteers.

Rep. Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Poe (R-TX), Jess Smochek, Rep. Costa (D-CA)

Smochek told ABC News it was "incredibly humbling" to be recognized by the Victims' Rights Caucus. "They are my heroes, both for the work they've done for so many vulnerable populations and for the work I believe some of them are doing even now to help make sure my story won't have to be retold by future Peace Corps Volunteers."


  1. I ended up on this site via the NYT article. First, my heart goes out to those who have suffered.

    But... we're sending attractive young women to 3rd world hellholes and expecting bad things WON'T happen? That seems wildly naive. End this program or privatize it.

  2. Wow...that's an impressively stupid comment.

  3. My heart goes out to the 1000 young Peace Corps volunteers who were victims of assault and/or rape while serving over the last decade. I was shocked to find out that the Peace Corps, a program that so many international development workers, such as myself, respect and admire.

    To you volunteers: you are the most beautiful citizens of this country. To have dedicated yourself to helping those in need in underserved communities, is the most inspiring thing. I understand your frustration, but know that it is only a very small group of individuals who committed these heinous acts on you. I hope that you do not blame the people of the community, let alone a country, for this.

    Lastly, to Ms. Jess Smochek: you are an inspiration. By stepping up, you have made an impact; you have encouraged others to make their voices be heard. I hope that your actions will make the Peace Corps experience safer and more fulfilling for future generations. As a Bangladeshi, I apologize to you on behalf of my countrymen. I hope that in your mind, Bangladesh still remains the beautiful place that is.

  4. I am a young attractive woman from the US, but I have lived and worked in the third world for a number of years. Nothing has ever happened to me, other than a lot of unwanted attention from men. I have friends, however, who have been raped or even gang raped in the states. While access to security does play a factor, it is much more complicated than that.

  5. God I hate television. The ABC thing was condescending, the interviewer piping up unnecessarily, reaction shots of the interviewer, the girls arranged on blocks as if it were a variety show.