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The Blue & Gray Press | June 24, 2018

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Staff Editorial: Covering Up Assaults, A Peace Corps Disgrace

The Peace Corps is typically associated with selflessness and giving, but in some ways the service organization appears to be asking too much of its volunteers.

In the past decade, approximately 1,000 volunteers have come forward with reports of rape and sexual assault, according to an in-depth report aired on ABC news and further publicized by Rep. Ted Poe (Tx-2).

Many of the victims expressed that they believe the Peace Corps blames them for the assaults that took place, rather than counseling or supporting them.
One woman, profiled in the mid-January ABC report, described her counseling sessions as more upsetting than helpful.

She said the therapist asked her to write down all the things she had done wrong that put herself in a position to be raped and what she would do differently in the future to avoid similar circumstances.

While encouraging volunteers to be aware of their surroundings seems like a wise practice, focusing on that aspect of sexual assault would really be best suited to the training they receive before going overseas. If the Peace Corps does not feel that its women and men are adequately aware of how to avoid rape, they should not be deemed ready to be sent to foreign countries.

Another victim ABC news interviewed reported being groped on the street early during her time in Bangladesh. She said she pleaded to be relocated, but was told to stay put. When she was gang raped some time later, the Peace Corps instructed her not to reveal to anyone why she was being sent home.

The power of these testimonials overshadows the reassurance given by the Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radlet.
“98 percent of all volunteers say they feel safe or extremely safe,” Hessler-Radlet said in an interview with ABC news.

Even if only two percent of the volunteers feel poorly taken care of, the utter lack of support they receive is wholly unexpected and disappointing. For an organization with such a long-standing positive reputation for serving people worldwide, some extra effort ought to be devoted to the men and women that make the service possible.

To set off on a grand adventure overseas, bright-eyed and willing to help others, and then to be raped or assaulted, must result in an irreparably disillusioned spirit. That type of violation would be difficult enough to recover from surrounded by family and friends, supported by those around you. But it would be devastating to have that experience in an unfamiliar country and to have the organization backing you refuse to help.