Peace Corps Director Testifies Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Details enhanced volunteer safety, health and support measuresWASHINGTON, D.C., May 11, 2011 Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Peace Corps enhanced safety, health and support measures for volunteers serving around the world. The hearing, entitled Peace Corps at 50, also included testimony from returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs), Peace Corps Inspector General and members of the Peace Corps community.
In prepared testimony, Director Williams outlined ways the Peace Corps has increased its support to volunteers who have been the victim of a sexual assault or other crime. Since Director Williams took office in August 2009, the Peace Corps has instituted several new measures to improve the agencys sexual assault risk reduction and response program. Director Williams testimony can be found in its entirety here.
The health, safety, and support of every member of our Peace Corps family is my number one priority, said Peace Corps Director Williams in a prepared statement. The Peace Corps of today takes the issue of sexual assault prevention and response seriously and we are dedicated to providing compassionate victim-centered care. Since I became Director, the Peace Corps has put in place new policies to reduce the risks faced by volunteers and to ensure they receive our full support when a tragedy occurs.
The Director continued his statement by detailing the measures the Peace Corps has taken to strengthen global operations and improve the quality of care provided to volunteers. He concluded his statement by offering sincere thanks to the Peace Corps volunteers of yesterday, today and tomorrow for their commitment to public service.
The Peace Corps will continue to make additional changes as the agency works with returned volunteers, other government agencies and leaders in the field of sexual assault risk reduction and response. The Peace Corps has instituted the following reforms to strengthen safety and security procedures and ensure compassionate care for victims of crime.
- Issued Peace Corps Commitment to Sexual Assault Victims, a set of core principles to ensure we provide timely, effective, and compassionate support to victims of sexual assault.
- Implemented and trained staff on our new Guidelines for Responding to Rape and Sexual Assault. The guidelines emphasize a victim-centered approach with specific procedures posts must follow to respond promptly to an incident and provide the best possible support to a victim.
- The agencys Sexual Assault Working Group is developing a comprehensive sexual assault prevention and response program. The working group includes returned volunteers and survivors of rape and sexual assault, as well as staff with expertise in trauma response.
- At the suggestion of returned Peace Corps volunteers with First Response Action, Peace Corps hired a nationally recognized leader in victims rights to be the agencys first victims advocate. The victims advocate will make sure victims of crime get the emotional, medical, legal, and other support they need.
- Created the Peace Corps Volunteer Sexual Assault Panel, made up of outside experts and returned volunteers who were victims of sexual assault, to help Peace Corps design and implement sexual assault risk reduction and response strategies.
For more detailed information on Peace Corps safety and security practices, including the agencys commitment to volunteers, please visit the Safety Section on the Peace Corps website.
About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.