Agency Progress and Reforms
The Peace Corps has implemented important reforms to reduce the risk of sexual assault and improve support for Volunteers.
The agency has:
- Issued Peace Corps’ Commitment to Sexual Assault Victims (PDF), a set of core principles to ensure the agency provides timely and compassionate support to Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault.
- Created the Office of Victim Advocacy, a centralized resource to assist Volunteers following a crime. The Victim Advocates within the office ensure that Volunteers are made aware of, and receive access to, services provided by the Peace Corps in cases of sexual assault, stalking and other crimes. The office is led by highly trained Victim Advocates who are available 24 hours a day. Following the initial response, the Office of Victim Advocacy continues to assist Volunteers as needed, including accompanying Volunteers to their country of service to attend meetings with law enforcement or court proceedings, and assisting them with Federal Employees' Compensation Act applications and claims following completion of service.
- Fostered an agency-wide culture shift establishing a Volunteer-centered approach that underlies all reform efforts.
- Implemented a 24-hour sexual assault hotline pilot program staffed by mental-health clinicians that allows Volunteers to anonymously receive information about Peace Corps services available to them, options for reporting the assault if they choose to do so, and crisis counseling. The pilot program is informing the launch of a permanent, global hotline.
- Signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to collaborate and share resources on sexual assault risk reduction and response.
- Signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to collaborate and share resources in the follow-up to crimes committed against Peace Corps Volunteers.
- Formed the Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council (PDF) comprised of external subject-matter experts and former Volunteers. The Council reviews Peace Corps’ sexual assault risk reduction and response training, policies and procedures to ensure they incorporate best practices, and provides a thorough evaluation of the agency’s work.
- Launched a comprehensive Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response (SARRR) program that includes more than 30 policy changes; extensive sexual assault risk reduction and response training for both volunteers and staff; and new clearly defined procedures for reducing the risk of sexual assault and responding to Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault – all of which encourage volunteers to report incidents to the agency and seek out support. The program was developed in collaboration with post staff and Volunteers worldwide as well as nationally recognized experts, including recommendations from the Department of Justice; the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network; and the Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council. To ensure the program’s effectiveness, it establishes greater cross-departmental coordination in responding to sexual assault as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
- Instituted a new policy that provides Volunteers who have been victims of sexual assault with the option to report the incident to Peace Corps through a Restricted Report or a Standard Report. Restricted Reporting limits the number of staff members with access to information about an assault to only those involved in providing support services requested by the Volunteer. It is designed to give Volunteers access to support services while protecting their privacy and confidentiality, and allows Peace Corps to provide support services to Volunteers who otherwise may not seek support. Standard Reporting provides Volunteers with the same support services along with the opportunity to initiate an official investigation, while maintaining confidentiality.
- Established a Sexual Assault Response Liaison (SARL) program at each Peace Corps post. SARLs are trained to directly assist Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault and accompany them through the in-country response process.
The Peace Corps coordinates a global health, safety and security strategy. At every post, a Volunteer safety system is in place to minimize risks and promote effective and safe service. The Peace Corps is working hard to make sure each and every Volunteer and staff member is familiar with agency reforms.
The agency has:
- Delivered new standardized, comprehensive training for Volunteers on sexual assault awareness and response protocols, risk-reduction strategies including bystander intervention, and options for reporting an incident. Peace Corps trainees at every post receive this training during pre-service training.
- Trained Volunteers on policies and procedures for bringing confidential communications and allegations to the attention of appropriate staff members.
- Trained overseas staff in how to respond appropriately when Volunteers bring allegations of wrongdoing to their attention. Peace Corps staff members must take appropriate measures to ensure Volunteers’ safety and confidentiality, and ensure all allegations are given serious consideration, including referral to the Office of the Inspector General as appropriate. Retaliation of any kind against Volunteers is expressly forbidden.
- Provided overseas staff with guidance on specific procedures to follow when Volunteers express concerns about their safety or any situation that may threaten the well-being of Volunteers.
- Developed and implemented standard operating procedures for overseas Safety and Security Coordinators, who are responsible for coordinating the safety and security programs that support Volunteers at each post.
- Revised notification procedures for serious incidents to ensure key staff members are immediately informed of major crimes against Volunteers, so they can respond appropriately.
- Improved the medical care provided to Volunteers by giving medical professionals at headquarters overall responsibility for hiring, credentialing and managing Peace Corps medical officers at each post; by providing those medical officers with enhanced guidance on how to handle serious medical issues; and by establishing the Health Care Quality Assurance Council to monitor and report on ongoing healthcare issues.
- Delivered training to Peace Corps Medical Officers on enhanced protocols for the clinical management of Volunteers who have been sexually assaulted based on current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations. If a Volunteer chooses to undergo a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, the Peace Corps will offer the exam in accordance with host country laws.
- Reformed medical evacuation procedures so all Volunteers who are medically evacuated to Washington, D.C., are met at the airport by a Peace Corps representative and have a choice of healthcare providers for their care. Medically evacuated Volunteers are encouraged to provide feedback to the agency on their experience to ensure the quality of the process.
- Hired a nurse case manager who specializes in sexual assault services to oversee the medical care provided to medically evacuated Volunteers following incidents of crime.
Last updated Jan 30 2014
Safety and Security FAQS (PDF)
Office of Victim Advocacy