Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Peace Corps and rape victims...

This is a picture of me being "hugged" by a rather aggressive Armenian guy on a bus a colleague and I took to Turkey back in 1996...  I think my body language says it all.

This morning, I ran across a disturbing article from December 2015 about Kellie Greene, a woman who was hired by the Peace Corps to assist victims of sexual assault.  Greene was the first Director of the Peace Corps Office of Victim Advocacy (OVA).  In early December, Greene was placed on a 120 day unpaid suspension after the Peace Corps claimed that she was "creating a hostile work environment".  Greene's former position was created as a means of complying with the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2011.

Mindblowing report on sexual assaults and how they are handled in the Peace Corps.

Kate Puzey was a 24 year old Volunteer in Benin, Africa in 2009 when she was murdered by a man with whom she'd been working.  Puzey had sent her Peace Corps country director an email blowing the whistle on her former colleague, whom Puzey's female students claimed had been raping them.  Puzey had requested that her email be kept confidential, but somehow word got out that she had reported the rapist.  He took his revenge by slitting her throat as she slept.

If you read this blog regularly, you may know that I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia from 1995-97.  This is an issue that hits close to home for me, since sexual assault was also a problem when I was a Volunteer.  I was never myself a victim of anything worse than harassment, but I did know someone who was assaulted.  I remember how that assault was handled.  Initially, the country director tried to keep the details of the incident under wraps.  The truth about what actually happened later came out.  To their credit, Peace Corps officials and law enforcement in Armenia did help the Volunteer who was involved in prosecuting her attacker.  But, as I recall, it wasn't without a measure of reluctance on the Peace Corps' part.

Former Volunteers speak to lawmakers about their experiences after being raped.

The Peace Corps has a very "churchy" image that it tries very hard to protect.  It's promoted as a very noble organization run by open minded liberal types.  Having served as a Volunteer and having had close ties with the U.S. military, I will say that I see a lot of commonalities between the Peace Corps and the military.  Make no mistake about it.  The Peace Corps is first and foremost a U.S. government agency.  It's not nearly as "touchy-feely" as its image suggests.  While Volunteers are given medical care when they are in country, when they come home, they are pretty much forgotten.  Moreover, it appears that many of those who are victims of assault are being blamed for putting themselves in danger.

Another report about medical post service...

I do recall getting "training" in staying safe and I did get help when a neighbor harassed me.  What ended up happening was a very scary looking driver from the Peace Corps came over to my apartment building, found the neighbor who had threatened me, and put the fear of God in him.  A couple of months later, I was able to move.  I didn't move because of the neighbor, but because my landlady was selling my apartment.  After that, the most harassment I personally got was being stared at and occasionally groped on crowded buses and metros.  However, I was very lucky.  I did come back from Armenia with a rather persistent problem with skin infections.  It took three rounds of very strong antibiotics before I stopped having problems with recurrent bouts of cellulitis.

20/20 ran a program about Kate Puzey and problems within the Peace Corps with addressing sexual assault.  I highly recommend that anyone considering joining the Peace Corps, particularly females, watch the program.  I do not, for a minute, regret my service in Armenia.  It's one of the best things I've done in my life so far.  But I do think that anyone who wants to join the Peace Corps needs to do so with their eyes wide open.  They need to be prepared to be able to fend for themselves if something terrible happens.  It's wonderful that a law has been made to help Volunteers who have become crime victims, but it looks like the Peace Corps still isn't quite getting with the program.

Part of the 20/20 report on Kate Puzey.


  1. This is rather alarming. I probably should not be so shocked, but I am.

    1. Yeah... Actually, I am not surprised. It was the same in the 90s when I was a Volunteer.


Comments on older posts will be moderated until further notice.