Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams Response to ABC News 20/20
January 14, 2011ABC's program is deeply troubling and does not accurately reflect Peace Corps' unwavering commitment to our volunteers. The health and safety of our volunteers is the single most important priority for our agency. We are consistently reviewing and improving our global operations to ensure that we are doing our best to keep our volunteers healthy, safe and productive.
"We cannot comment on the ongoing investigation into the 2009 murder of volunteer Kate Puzey in Benin or do anything else that could risk compromising that investigation or the possibility of a successful prosecution. Peace Corps does not have a role in the ongoing investigation, but we have been assured that the Benin government is supporting the legal process necessary to conclude the investigation and begin a trial. The Department of State and the FBI have been working with the Benin authorities.
"Kate represented the best America has to offer the world with her dedication to her community and commitment to public service. Kate's death was a tragic loss for the Peace Corps. We continue to grieve with the Puzey family and Kate's friends. It is my sincere hope that justice is served both for Kate and her family. I would like to offer my apologies to the Puzey family if either the former leadership or the agency under my direction could have been more compassionate. Personally, it is heartbreaking to learn that they ever felt abandoned by the Peace Corps. This has never been our intent.
"Under my leadership, the Peace Corps has been implementing reforms to enhance the quality of Peace Corps service. These reforms include strengthening all health and safety measures. We do everything we can to keep our volunteers safe, and for those who sadly fall victim to crime, we do everything we can to support them in their recovery. The women interviewed by 20/20 are courageous and strong. Their stories are heartbreaking. Since their service, Peace Corps has improved sexual assault prevention procedures and practices, and we will continue to be responsive to the victims of assault and provide comprehensive care.
"We will never be able to eliminate volunteers' exposure to crimes overseas, but we will work continuously to maximize the safety and health systems supporting our volunteers. This is my pledge to Americans serving today and to the volunteers of tomorrow."
- To view Peace Corps statement issued to ABC News 20/20 before the program aired click here.
- For more information about our commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for our volunteers, please visit the Safety Section on our 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.