Bill to Help Peace Corps Volunteers Heads to President
Washington, DC — Legislation to improve the Peace Corps’ response to victims of sexual assault is now headed to the president’s desk after passing unanimously in the House of Representatives. The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, named for a volunteer from Georgia who was murdered in 2009 while serving in Africa, provides better security and protection measures for the 9,095 volunteers stationed in 76 countries. Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Sen. Johnny Isakson, it requires changes to the organization’s training, increases protections for volunteers, and institutionalizes improvements begun this year by the Peace Corps. RAINN worked with the Congressional sponsors as they developed the legislation.
“We were pleased to work with Rep. Poe and Sen. Isakson as they developed this important legislation," said Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's president and founder. "The Peace Corps has improved the way it handles sexual violence over the past year, and this bill will strengthen those changes. It will help the Peace Corps ensure that every victim gets the help they deserve."
Since entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Peace Corps in March, RAINN has made recommendations on how training can better prepare volunteers for in-country risks, highlighting cultural elements and information on local laws and reporting policies. RAINN also recommended that the Peace Corps implement Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs), and train additional victims advocates.
“I can’t emphasize enough how critical RAINN was to getting this bill passed,” said Rep. Ted Poe. “From the very beginning stages of drafting, I went to RAINN for instant expertise on some very difficult issues. After I introduced the bill, my colleagues were looking for an expert voice to speak on the bill. RAINN was that voice- respected, credible, and convincing. I don’t know of another organization that can match RAINN’s reputation on the Hill when it comes to sexual assault issues. This bill does not get passed without RAINN.”