Sworn Affidavits Highlight Anew Troubling Side of Peace Corps

A volunteer, along with teens, paints a wall with the Peace Corps logo. Photo by: Peace Corps

More Peace Corps volunteers have come forward to tell their stories of horror and subsequent frustration on how the humanitarian agency responded to reports of grievous incidents.

Around 30 volunteers, both past and present, submitted to congressional investigators this week sworn statements about their experiences being sexually assaulted and dealing with the Peace Corps following the crimes. The Washington Post published the affidavits, which were compiled by First Response Action, a group of former volunteers urging the Peace Corps to provide more support to sexual violence victims.

“The Peace Corps keeps telling us our stories are isolated incidents,” First Response founder Casey Frazee told The Washington Post. “We know it is different. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of cases out there.”

Frazee is herself a victim of sexual assault. The attack took place in South Africa in 2009.

In a statement obtained by The Washington Post, Director Aaron S. Williams expressed his apology to the volunteers “let down by the agency.”

He further said: “The health and safety of our volunteers is our top priority. We are implementing numerous reforms to better protect [them] and provide effective and compassionate support to victims.”

He also reiterated his agency’s commitment to work with Congress in strengthening the Peace Corps’ response to violent crimes against volunteers.

In May, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimonies from former volunteers who were sexually assaulted while working in remote villages overseas and were let down by what they saw as missteps by the Peace Corps in responding to their situation.

>> House Panel Hears Peace Corps Overseas Volunteers’ Testimonies on Safety

There is currently a proposal in Congress that will provide whistleblower protection for Peace Corps volunteers and require the agency to develop sexual assault risk reduction and response training and protocol. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, both Republicans, introduced the bill in June.

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.