It goes without saying that the passage of The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act is a momentous occasion. With this legislation, we will truly see a BETTER, STRONGER Peace Corps for all Volunteers. As some people may know, I became involved with this issue in 2007, during my Pre-Service Training as Volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga. Because I had worked in sexual violence response and prevention prior to joining the Peace Corps, I entered my service with a strong foundation in this work. I therefore realized the huge deficiencies in sexual assault prevention training, education, and formalized response protocol. Although I petitioned both in-country staff as well as Peace Corps Headquarters for improved practice around responding to sexual assault, change and a commitment for reform was virtually non-existent. I left Peace Corps truly feeling that the largest source of my frustration with my service was the inability to create change around this critical issue.
Post Peace-Corps service, I had the opportunity to help build First Response Action with other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who cared deeply about this issue. Some of us joined as allies, some as survivors. Together, we were able to build a viable campaign for reform. The list of people to thank would be far too long for a blog post. However, I am deeply grateful for everyone who lent their voice to this cause and would like to acknowledge the members of the Colorado delegation, Senator Michael Bennet and Rep. Ed Pelmutter, who co-sponsored this legislation. This Act truly creates a survivor-centered approach to responding to victims of crime. The confidentiality provisions allow a survivor to regain power and control by allowing her or him to decide when and how agency officials know about this very personal crime. It allows survivors to access critical medical and support services while still maintaining confidentiality. The Act provides improved training for staff and volunteers and oversight for staff who do not follow protocol. It also establishes the global presence of Victim Advocates.
Over the past year, I've been honored to work with Peace Corps' newly-formed Volunteer Sexual Assault Review Panel. First Response Action believes it is critical for an outside panel of experts in the field of sexual assault response to have the ability to review and help revise Peace Corps training, education, and policies. I am excited about the work of the Review Panel and am thankful for the agency's leadership and renewed commitment toward addressing this issue. With the passage of the legislation, a Sexual Assault Advisory Council will now be codified into law!
It is an absolute honor that this legislation is named in memory of Kate Puzey. I've often felt that she's another board member of First Response Action. I hope that her spirit is at peace and we are so thankful for all that she did to make the world a better place for women and girls.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
A Long Road!: Karen Moldovan's Board Editorial
The following blog post is from First Response Action board member Karen Moldovan, who served in the Kingdom of Tonga 2007-09, about her thoughts on the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act legislation passing the House and being sent to President Obama. Karen has supported this campaign as a field advocate through her work at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She serves on Peace Corps' Volunteer Sexual Assault Review Panel which engages experts to address the issue of sexual assault training and response. Karen is an integral member of the board and her expertise, passion and dedication are outstanding.