After posting about the assault of women in the Peace Corps, we received some troubling emails — and information about a very good cause.
I was shocked at the number of similar stories I heard — as well, of course, as those of women who had wonderful and safe experiences in the program. But, wrote one reader, we should consider the number of assaults that go unreported.
I was in the Peace Corps in Latin America in the early 1980s. Four women from my group (of about 20 women) got raped. Two didn't report it for fear of how it would be handled. Two women, who were raped in their home by several men, did report it. I can't speak to the quality of attention they got from Peace Corps. One thing I do remember was that I heard many stories of women being raped in Peace Corps, with the majority not reporting it. I'd take that 2% number with a grain of salt.
If you're wondering what we can do, consider the First Response Action coalition. Wrote one member, "Our coalition is working to improve Peace Corps response to sexual assault and rape and improve prevention programs. We are really hoping that by bringing attention to this issue and educating Peace Corps we can help create a space that IS safe for future volunteers." And their work is not falling on deaf ears. Says their website,
Since the taping of the 20/20 segment, First Response Action Coalition members met with Peace Corps and they shared with us the ways that they are strengthening their support of Volunteers within the context of sexual assault and rape. They are beginning to implement policy changes to reflect this commitment and we at First Response Action are cautiously optimistic about the progress. It is significant to note that each survivor on the 20/20 panel expressed their support of Peace Corps as an organization, as well as the desperate need for review of current rape and sexual assault policy and protocol.
And that right there says it all: everyone is supportive of Peace Corps as a mission and an organization. We all want people to be able to do their work in safety, and to feel no qualms about volunteering. As such, we applaud the founders of FRAC and thank the brave women who've come forward to start an important dialogue — and honor Sargent Shriver's legacy in the process.