After 20/20 featured women who'd survived sexual assault while stationed overseas as Peace Corps volunteers, Congress took notice. And now, one of the women who came forward is being honored.
Jess Smochek, 29, refused to do nothing after being gang-raped in India (following insufficient protection from the Peace Corps) and what she claims was a coverup by the organization. Instead, she devoted herself to raising awareness of the all-too-common problem of safety in the Peace Corps, and helping survivors of assault through First Response Action Coalition. Now, Smochek will receive the 2011 Suzanne McDaniel Public Awareness Award from the bipartisan Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus. Says Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican who's co-chair of the Caucus, "Thanks to the courage and determination of Jessica Smochek, the mistreatment of victims of violence and the inadequate response from the Peace Corps has captured the attention of the nation."
And there have been concrete repercussions too. Reports ABC,
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, of which Poe is a member, will hold hearings next month on the Peace Corps' handling of more than a thousand cases of female volunteers who were raped or sexually assaulted over the last decade. "This is very upsetting. If these numbers are accurate this is something that Congress definitely should investigate," Rep. Rohrabacher, R-California, chairman of the subcommittee, told ABC News. In his letter asking for the hearing, Poe called the Peace Corps' alleged treatment of assault victims "gross negligence in caring for its volunteers abroad. The Peace Corps did not adequately protect its volunteers, bring U.S. resources to bear on any criminal investigation, nor provide proper care for the victims in the aftermath," Poe wrote.
The one thing I object to about this story is the title: "Rape Victim Jess Smochek Honored By Congress." While she deserves the honor, she's so much more.