Peace Corps responds to CBS News report on sexual assault

The report CBS aired on January 29, 2018, “Peace Corps failing to protect volunteers from sexual assault, watchdog says,” grossly mischaracterizes the tremendous progress the Peace Corps has made to both help prevent and address sexual assaults when they occur.   

The report is factually inaccurate, uses outdated interviews, and confuses the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) with the Peace Corps’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

In addition, the report fails to acknowledge the health, safety and security and numerous other reforms the Peace Corps has made to support volunteers who are sexually assaulted. It also fails to acknowledge the enormous support the agency provides victims of sexual assault when serving internationally and when they return to the United States.

Furthermore, the report includes an incident that was not reported as sexual assault, which is misleading. 

The Peace Corps is extremely disappointed with the reporting and is demanding CBS fully review the report and immediately issue a full correction.   

Regarding Ms. Kellie Greene, due to privacy considerations, the Peace Corps is constrained from commenting on her personnel matter without her consent.

I ask that you consider the following points to help correct the record and give your viewers a clearer picture of the facts:

  • The vast majority of sexual assaults cited in the survey used in your reporting are non-aggravated sexual assaults (including attempts). Of all female respondents, 27% experienced a non-aggravated sexual assault, 7% aggravated sexual assault, and 4% rape at some point during their two years of service.
  • The OSC letter does not mention anything about a culture of “victim-blaming.” In response to the complaint filed with OSC, the Peace Corps OIG investigated and submitted a report. The OIG found that the Peace Corps did not have systemic issues, and that the Peace Corps did not violate any laws, when it comes to our treatment of volunteers who had been sexually assaulted. In fact, a substantial majority of sexual assault victims who responded to a 2016 survey about the care they received expressed satisfaction with the agency’s response.
  • While it’s unclear which OIG report is cited in yesterday’s story, it should be noted the OIG evaluation report in November 2016 finds marked improvement in documenting that required services were offered, requested, and provided to Volunteers who had reported being sexually assaulted compared to the OIG’s findings from 2013.
  • For a more balanced story, it would be helpful to speak with a volunteer who expressed satisfaction with the care they received. Here’s an example:
  • Your statement that OSC is calling for better training for in-country Peace Corps employees is inaccurate. The OSC calls for training of host families and co-workers. These individuals are not in-country Peace Corps employees. They are host country nationals who have no employment relationship with Peace Corps.  The Peace Corps provides comprehensive sexual assault risk-reduction and response training to both Volunteers and staff. Each post has two sexual assault response liaisons trained to directly assist Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault throughout the in-country response process. The agency agrees that it would be beneficial to heighten awareness of the Peace Corps’ approach to sexual assault risk reduction and response for people who interact closely with volunteers.
  • At present, all volunteer counterparts receive training, though we are always looking for areas in need of improvement.

Volunteers and trainees are contacted by the Peace Corps Counseling and Outreach Unit or an in-country provider within 72 hours of a reported sexual assault to arrange care. Peace Corps provides trauma-informed care via evidence-based psychotherapy, which is available for trainees and volunteers who have experienced a sexual assault. A broad range of options are available from counseling in a Peace Corps country to intensive treatment in the US.

The Peace Corps has provided a response to OSC and asked that office to share this document with the public.

We welcome the opportunity to provide you with additional information about the Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response Program we have developed over the last five years, in which we take great pride. 

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About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 230,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide.

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