*This article was originally created for a course in media writing and published on 6 Dec., 2015.
On Nov. 30, CBS News broke an exclusive story, alleging that Peace Corps placed the blame for sexual assault against volunteers on the victims and punished them for reporting it. CBS obtained exclusive access to a Peace Corps survey that found that of the roughly seven thousand volunteers in over 65 countries all over the world, nearly one in five had been sexually assaulted, and only half of these had reported the crime.
“Though we do not believe the CBS story accurately illustrated the Peace Corps’ commitment to our Volunteers, we do find it deeply troubling.” Said Peace Corps Press Director Erin Durney via email correspondence.
In the wake of the report, former Peace Corps victims advocate Kellie Greene has accused her former employer of firing her for whistleblowing. In truth, Greene has been placed on 120-day suspension without pay.
When asked for a response to Greene’s accusation, Durney said, “Peace Corps is prohibited by law from commenting specifically on a personnel matter unless the employee signs a privacy waiver. Unfortunately, Ms. Greene has not done so which prohibits us from speaking more freely about her time at Peace Corps.”
The scandal has drawn the attention of US government officials, including Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). Poe helped design the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011. The bill forced the Peace Corps to implement numerous measures in order to protect its volunteers from violent crime and was named for murdered volunteer Kate Puzey.
In March of 2009, Puzey was found dead with her throat slashed in Benin, where she had been posted as a teacher. She was murdered hours after reporting a male volunteer for sexually molesting young girls in the village where they were posted together.
Poe stated that Greene’s firing looks suspicious, and has accused the Peace Corps of not being sensitive enough to the needs and suffering of volunteers who become victims of violent crime. Since the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, the organization has instituted over 30 reforms.
Press Director Erin Durney maintains that the safety and health of volunteers remains on of the Corps’ utmost priorities.
“Early data indicates that since these reforms, more Volunteers are coming forward to receive services when they are assaulted – and of those who have completed surveys about their care, an overwhelming majority cites a positive response from Peace Corps.”