[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
PEACE CORPS AT 50
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
MAY 11, 2011
Serial No. 112-16
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
DAN BURTON, Indiana GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
ELTON GALLEGLY, California ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DANA ROHRABACHER, California Samoa
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California BRAD SHERMAN, California
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
RON PAUL, Texas GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
MIKE PENCE, Indiana RUSS CARNAHAN, Missouri
JOE WILSON, South Carolina ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
CONNIE MACK, Florida GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
JEFF FORTENBERRY, Nebraska THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas DENNIS CARDOZA, California
TED POE, Texas BEN CHANDLER, Kentucky
GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
JEAN SCHMIDT, Ohio ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, Pennsylvania
BILL JOHNSON, Ohio CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY, Connecticut
DAVID RIVERA, Florida FREDERICA WILSON, Florida
MIKE KELLY, Pennsylvania KAREN BASS, California
TIM GRIFFIN, Arkansas WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina
ANN MARIE BUERKLE, New York
RENEE ELLMERS, North Carolina
Yleem D.S. Poblete, Staff Director
Richard J. Kessler, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Ms. Lois Puzey, parent of late Peace Corps volunteer............. 22
Ms. Carol Clark, former Peace Corps volunteer.................... 37
Ms. Jessica Smochek, former Peace Corps volunteer................ 46
Karestan Chase Koenen, Ph.D., former Peace Corps volunteer....... 58
Ms. Jennifer Wilson Marsh, hotline and affiliate service
director, RAINN................................................ 73
The Honorable Aaron S. Williams, Director, Peace Corps........... 96
Ms. Kathy A. Buller, Inspector General, Peace Corps.............. 117
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Florida, and chairman, Committee on Foreign
Statement from Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff, returned Peace
Corp volunteers.............................................. 4
Letter dated May 6, 2011, from Building Bridges Coalition...... 12
Prepared statement............................................. 14
Ms. Lois Puzey: Prepared statement............................... 25
Ms. Carol Clark: Prepared statement.............................. 39
Ms. Jessica Smochek: Prepared statement.......................... 48
Karestan Chase Koenen, Ph.D.: Prepared statement................. 60
Ms. Jennifer Wilson Marsh: Prepared statement.................... 75
The Honorable Ted Poe, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Texas: Questions/statement............................ 85
The Honorable Aaron S. Williams: Prepared statement.............. 99
Ms. Kathy A. Buller: Prepared statement.......................... 119
Hearing notice................................................... 138
Hearing minutes.................................................. 139
Written responses from the Honorable Aaron S. Williams to
questions submitted for the record by:
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.............................. 141
The Honorable Christopher H. Smith, a Representative in
Congress from the State of New Jersey........................ 151
The Honorable Gerald E. Connolly, a Representative in Congress
from the Commonwealth of Virginia: Prepared statement.......... 153
The Honorable Niki Tsongas, a Representative in Congress from the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Statement....................... 154
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies: Statement.... 157
PEACE CORPS AT 50
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2011
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m., in
room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. The committee will come to order.
After recognizing myself and the ranking member, my good friend
Mr. Berman of California, for 7 minutes each for our opening
statements, I will recognize each member of the committee for 1
minute for their opening remarks. We will then hear from our
I ask that you summarize your prepared statements in 5
minutes each before we move to the questions and answers with
members under the 5-minute rule. Without objection, the
witnesses' prepared statements will be made a part of the
record. And members may have 5 days to insert statements and
questions for the record subject to the length limitation in
We apologize if it looks like it is a sparsely attended
hearing. We have the GOP Caucus going on now, the Democratic
Caucus, and about five different committees having briefings
and hearings as well. So it will slowly build up.
The chair now recognizes herself for 7 minutes.
March 1st, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the
establishment of the Peace Corps. We initially planned to hold
this hearing in March, but postponed it to accommodate the many
Over 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps.
Today, there are over 8,000 Peace Corps volunteers serving in
77 countries. Three hundred of these volunteers are from the
State of Florida, and 9 are from my own district. According to
the Peace Corps' facts and figures, 60 percent of current Peace
Corps volunteers are female, and the average age of a Peace
Corps volunteer is just 28 years old.
For half a century, Peace Corps volunteers have given their
generous talents and skills to help the poor in developing
countries, thereby increasing understanding between diverse
cultures. For many, these Peace Corps volunteers serve as the
only American faces to visit faraway places in distant lands,
and volunteers should be proud of their accomplishments, as
there are many to celebrate.
In spite of these successes, it is time to examine how,
after 50 years, the Peace Corps is faring. In particular, we
must review how the Peace Corps, as an institution, has
supported Peace Corps volunteers.
Despite critical reports by its own Inspector General, the
Government Accountability Office, and prior congressional
hearings, Peace Corps' safety and security failures have been a
recurrent problem with tragic consequences for thousands of
volunteers. Some who seek to ignore those problems have
asserted that volunteer service, itself, is inherently risky as
an excuse for lax and ineffective safety and security measures.
That attitude is unacceptable.
Clearly, the conditions under which Peace Corps volunteers
serve present unique challenges. Volunteers are often deployed
to areas with restricted access to reliable communication, with
limited or no police or medical services. Volunteers may have
only a basic understanding of local language and culture, and
may be viewed as relatively wealthy--becoming targets for
According to an April 2010 audit report by the Peace Corps
``If compared to public colleges and universities, the
Peace Corps would rank first for the most robberies,
second for the most burglaries, and seventh for the
most aggravated assaults. Further, in comparison to
crime statistics reported by countries around the
world, Peace Corps volunteers experience higher rates
of rape and burglary than any of the 86 countries that
responded to the United Nations crime statistics
Historically, the media have downplayed the dangers of
serving in the Peace Corps, and have underreported and
overlooked any criticism of the Peace Corps. Recently, this
immunization has started to subside.
In 2003, the Dayton Daily News released its seven-part
series entitled, ``Casualties of Peace.'' Former Dayton Daily
News Editor, Jeffrey Bruce stated,
``The extent of this safety problem has been disguised
for decades, partly because the assaults occurred
thousands of miles away, partly because Peace Corps has
made little effort to publicize them, and partly
because the agency deliberately kept people from
finding out--while emphasizing the positive aspects of
the Peace Corps.''
Earlier this year, on January 14th, the ABC television news
program, 20/20, exposed the Peace Corps' failures regarding the
reporting of sexual assault and rape, which spurred many
victims to come forward about the mishandling of their cases.
According to dozens of disturbing affidavits received by our
committee, the Peace Corps' mishandling of rape and assault
spans over four decades. Several of the affidavits are from
volunteers currently serving in the Peace Corps. The affidavits
received by the committee were obtained by First Response
Action, a support group of volunteers who were victims of rape
The affidavits establish five basic themes: Volunteers are
generally inadequately trained on sexual assault issues;
volunteers are often placed in dangerous situations; the Peace
Corps' in-country response often fails to meet survivors'
needs; upon return to the United States, survivors often
receive hostile rather than supportive treatment; and, lastly,
institutional obstacles often prevent survivors from receiving
long-term medical and mental health care.
Without objection, I would like to include these affidavits
into the official record.
[Note: The Peace Corps volunteer affidavits are not
reprinted here but are available in committee records and on
the committee's Web site.]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. At this time, I would also like to
include, without objection, a statement from returned
volunteers, Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff, who have been
advocates for reform to address problems with the Peace Corps,
including safety and security.
[The information referred to follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Further, without objection, I would
like to include for the record a statement from the Building
Bridges Coalition, a consortium of 300 international volunteer
organizations, regarding Peace Corps safety and security.
[The information referred to follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Finally, I will be handing Mr.
Williams a letter from a constituent of mine who was serving in
the Peace Corps but was recently terminated. I am asking the
Peace Corps to explain why it did not accommodate the medical
concerns of this older volunteer.
At our hearing today, three returned Peace Corps volunteers
have made the difficult decision to testify about their
traumatic experiences, and I commend them for their bravery,
and continued commitment to effect positive change in the Peace
We will also hear from the mother of a Peace Corps
volunteer who did not return home. Lois Puzey will testify
about her courageous daughter and how the Peace Corps failed
Kate when she reported the rape and abuse of students for whom
she cared so deeply. Following this testimony, we will hear
from Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, and the Peace Corps
Inspector General Kathy Buller. Our goal is to find ways to
address these problems so that future Peace Corps volunteers
will not fear for their safety.
And we are joined today--thank you, Senator Isakson from
Georgia. We are joined by Senator Johnny Isakson, whose
constituent is Lois Puzey. Senator Isakson's presence is
another indication of his commitment to securing justice for
Lois' daughter, Kate, who was killed during her service as a
Peace Corps volunteer in Benin. And I understand that Senator
Isakson will be traveling there next week to get a further
update on Kate's case.
Now I am pleased to recognize my good friend, Ranking
Member Mr. deg.Berman for his opening remarks.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Ros-Lehtinen follows:]
Mr. Berman. Well, thank you very much, Madam Chairman. And
thank you for calling this important hearing. And I want to
second your commendation of Mrs. Puzey and the witnesses, other
witnesses, who are coming forward to talk about something which
cannot be that easy to talk about in such a public setting. We
very much appreciate your courage in doing this.
This year, as you noted, marks the 50th anniversary of the
Peace Corps. Since its founding, nearly 200,000 volunteers have
served in 139 countries around the world, promoting community-
based development, sharing American values, and enriching our
own nation by bringing knowledge about other countries and
cultures back to the United States.
The distinguished list of Peace Corps alumni includes 15
Members of Congress, 4 current members; cabinet members;
ambassadors; noted journalists; scientists; educators; and many
others, who are leaders in their fields making an impact around
No agency with such a modest budget has done more than the
Peace Corps to extend America's presence in nearly every part
of the world. For that reason, it has enjoyed the strong
support of both Republican and Democratic administrations.
However, all of us were deeply troubled by the recent ABC news
20/20 segment, which detailed the circumstances surrounding the
murder of a volunteer in the West African nation of Benin and
the sexual assault of volunteers in a number of different
The Puzey family was not provided adequate support after
the death of their daughter, from the manner in which they were
notified to the way her personal effects were returned home to
the lack of explanation of the circumstances that led to her
By failing to provide Ms. Smochek with the protection she
had requested or removing her from her site, Peace Corps left
her open to an attack that could have cost her life. By
providing inadequate training to Peace Corps staff and
volunteers on how to prevent and respond to sexual assaults,
the volunteer community is left vulnerable to physical and
We have a profound obligation to our volunteers to do
everything possible, not only to improve their safety and to
prevent these crimes from occurring but to respond effectively
in emergency situations. There is no excuse for failing to
treat survivors with dignity and compassion or for leaving
families in the dark.
Our job today is to identify the gaps and flaws in the
current system, and lay the groundwork for fixing them in a
reasonable bipartisan manner. The brave and selfless men and
women who chose to spend more than 2 years of their lives as
volunteers, often in some of the most remote places on Earth,
deserve nothing less.
Indeed, the volunteers are and always will be the Peace
Corps' most precious asset. Is the agency doing all it can to
protect them? Is it minimizing risks the volunteers face in the
field? Is it providing the kind of training, preparation, and
support they need for emergency situations? Is it using the
best protocols to respond to sexual assault and protect
survivors? When the worst happens, are they treating the
families with compassion and respect?
To help answer some of these questions, we are honored to
have with us today the mother of Kate Puzey, the volunteer
murdered in Benin, and several former volunteers that were the
victims of sexual assault. We know it takes enormous courage
for you to tell your stories in this very public setting, as I
We all share the goal of making the Peace Corps of the next
50 years even better than the Peace Corps of the last 50. It is
now our duty to ensure that this agency lives up to the
idealism, innovation, and generosity embodied in the
Finally, let me just say that it takes a certain kind of
person to join the Peace Corps, a certain pioneering spirit, to
leave behind all the comforts they have known for their entire
lives and enter the unknown to serve others. These individuals
live with those who are less fortunate than themselves. They
see the poverty that grips billions around the world and join
them in their struggle to make a small business work, make
their crop yields better, gain access to clean water, combat
deadly and debilitating disease. For this service, it is not
only the United States but the world that owes Peace Corps
volunteers a debt of gratitude.
I hope we can learn today about how to improve the Peace
Corps and work together in the bipartisan manner that has
always marked our approach to the agency. We must do this to
honor the courage of the people who are speaking out on these
issues, to acknowledge the others who have yet to come forward
and to respect the legacy of an agency that has done so much
good in the world.
Thank you, Madam Chairman. I look forward to the witnesses'
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Berman.
The members are recognized for 1 minute for opening
statements if they choose to. Congressman Gallegly of
Mr. Gallegly. In the interest of time so we can get to our
witnesses, I would yield.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Congressman Sires of New Jersey?
Mr. Sires. Thank you, Madam Chair, Ranking Member Berman,
for holding this, today's hearing.
Earlier this year the Peace Corps celebrated its 50th
anniversary. We have had over 200,000 volunteers serving in
over 139 countries. I am incredibly proud for the volunteers'
service and the lasting contribution you are making to improve
the lives of people in communities where you are serving.
Because of my strong support for the work of the Peace Corps, I
am very concerned about the history of safety and security that
threatens the Peace Corps volunteers all over the world.
I am looking forward to hearing from Director Williams and
Inspector Buller about the progress made by Peace Corps
regarding volunteer safety. And I would like to thank former
Peace Corps volunteers for being here today to share the
stories with us.
And I also am interested in knowing what the process is
when a volunteer is in danger. How do you remove that volunteer
from a dangerous place? I am very curious how you determine
And I yield back.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
Judge Poe of Texas?
Mr. Poe. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Peace Corps, those American angels abroad, the best we have
in this country. They represent everything that is good and
right about this nation. And you are sitting right here on the
front row. Thank you for your service and your courage.
And when you go abroad, a Peace Corps volunteer goes
abroad, and a crime is committed against them, this nation
needs to be very proactive in making sure that you are taken
care of. Too often in the affidavits that I have read, the
Peace Corps volunteer when assaulted becomes the accused. Peace
Corps has blamed you for the crimes committed against you.
As a former judge, let me just say this. Sexual assault is
never, never the fault of the victim. And our system, our
country must totally support victims abroad, take care of them,
bring them back, give them justice because justice is what we
do in this country.
Thank you for being here.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Just the way it is. Thank you,
Mr. Cicilline, Rhode Island?
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Madam Chairman. And I thank you
for holding this hearing and thank our ranking member. I
welcome the witnesses.
And I want to apologize in advance. I am not able to stay
for the entire hearing. But I want to assure you that I have
read all of the written testimony and will follow up with you.
But I really want to thank you for being here to share these
stories. I think we all recognize the Peace Corps has done
extraordinary things, as Mr. Berman described. But this is a
I am proud that in my district, we have Brown University,
which ranks right near the top in terms of providing volunteers
to the Peace Corps. We have a responsibility to ensure that
every single person who makes the sacrifice to serve in the
Peace Corps, that we do everything we can, everything humanly
possible to assure their safety.
And the testimony that you provided in your written
testimony is very disturbing to me and I think to all members
of this committee. And I thank you for being here to share your
stories and thank you for your service to our country.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Ms. Schmidt of Ohio?
Ms. Schmidt. Thank you. And, first off, I want to thank
these brave women that are here before us, Ms. Smochek, Ms.
Clark, and Ms. Koenen, and, most importantly, Mrs. Puzey, for
what you have given in order to allow peace to go abroad. You
know, 60 percent of the folks that are in the Peace Corps are
women. And you are truly angels and ambassadors.
And your three-pronged mission of a better understanding of
Americans to help people understand the folks in America and
abroad, that is commendable. But when you go over there, you
are supposed to go over there knowing you are going to be safe,
and that if something is to happen to you, that you are going
to be taken care of. And I think that is the big blemish in
this whole debate.
I live close to Dayton. I read that article many years ago
and couldn't believe that it was happening. And now that I
serve in Congress, I have the ability to do something about it.
With your help, we will.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Jean.
Ms. Wilson of Florida?
Ms. Wilson. Thank you, Madam Chair and Ranking Member
Berman, for holding this hearing.
Founded 50 years ago, in 1961, by John F. Kennedy, the
Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of
promoting world peace and friendship by sending American
volunteers to serve at the grass roots level in villages and
towns and corners of the globe. Living and working with
ordinary people, volunteers have contributed in a variety of
capacities, such as teachers, environmental specialists, health
promoters, and small business advisers, to improving the lives
of those they serve and helping others understand American
To date nearly 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served
in 139 countries. About 8,655 volunteers currently serve in 77
nations. In September 2005, Peace Corps response volunteers
were deployed to assist Hurricane Katrina relief, the first
time in Peace Corps history that volunteers were used
domestically. More recently, they are serving in Haiti. And
While these volunteers serve our nation and our interests
today, we will hear terrible stories of sexual assault and
abuse to Peace Corps volunteers. It is important that we learn
and know what changes the Peace Corps has done in the wake of
these charges. Is a sexual assault protocol developed by the
Peace Corps sufficient? And what can we do to keep our
I look forward to the witness testimony. And thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Ms. Wilson.
Mr. Marino of Pennsylvania?
Mr. Marino. Thank you, Madam Chair.
As a former state and Federal prosecutor, I want to know
why these good people were treated like they were and why these
crimes weren't prosecuted and taken to the fullest extent.
I yield my time.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Higgins of New York?
Mr. Higgins. I thank the chair and just to thank the
witnesses for being here. And the Peace Corps has done
extraordinary work throughout the world for the past 50 years.
We have an obligation, morally and otherwise, to ensure their
safety. It is not what America does or says throughout the
world. It is what America does. And the Peace Corps for 50
years has been the embodiment to the great, generous spirit of
the American idea.
So I look forward to the hearing. And I yield back my time.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Kelly of Pennsylvania?
Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Madam Chair.
And, to the witnesses, I want to thank you so much for
coming forward and having the fortitude to do it. It has got to
be very difficult. As a father and a grandfather, I can tell
you after reading your testimony I cannot believe that we put
you in such danger and treated you so poorly. So I will tell
you that I will dedicate my time--I have only been here 3
months--to following up on this and making sure that at any
time this ever happens again, we follow through the way we need
to follow through and keep our promise to you the way you kept
your promise to our country.
I yield back my time. I look forward to your testimony.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Very good. Thank you.
Mr. Connolly of Virginia?
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
And, again, I want to express my welcome and appreciation
for the courage of the women who have joined this panel today.
Their stories are compelling and need to be addressed.
I also think, as the ranking member indicated, that this is
the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. And, as Judge Poe
said, Peace Corps makes us proud as Americans. Its presence
overseas has been a marvelous testament about democracy, not in
the abstract but in the faces of the men and women who have
served, 200,000, as Mr. Sires said.
Sadly, we can't protect all of those volunteers, but the
goal ought to be to do just that, to bring the risk factor to
zero. We will never quite get to zero, but we need to explore
today what we can do to ensure that this never happens to
another volunteer and that, God forbid, when it does, the full
brunt of U.S. resources on behalf of justice and bringing to
justice the perpetrators of the crime are at work. So making
Peace Corps even better ought to be the subject of this hearing
and not cloud the 50 proud years of an organization that has
done so well to the United States.
And I thank the chair.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Dana Rohrabacher of California?
Mr. Rohrabacher. One of the frustrating aspects of my job
is that I have two hearings at exactly the same time that are
both really important. I will be coming back and forth, but I
will be reading your full testimony. I want to thank you for
And I think it is a sad commentary that women who went
overseas to serve our country and to serve others found out
when their most important time of need happened, that we
weren't there. Their government was not there to serve them
when they needed it the most. So I thank you for coming
forward. You are going to permit us to perhaps correct a bad
situation. That is what this is all about. And thank you for
coming forward with your testimony.
And thank you, Madam Chair, for calling the hearing.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Ms. Bass of California?
Ms. Bass. Yes, Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would first like to commend the strength of the women
before us for your courage to come forward and advocate on such
a delicate and important issue. I appreciate you coming to
Washington this week to speak to Members of Congress and our
staff and for testifying during this public hearing.
I know that you have all endured great hardships from these
experiences and should be commended for your bravery and
perseverance in ensuring that future generations of Peace Corps
volunteers don't have to go through what you did. You inspire
all of us with your actions and commitment to the Peace Corps,
the vision of service and world diplomacy. We are grateful for
your service during your time in this program and thereafter.
And I look forward to trying to understand what we can do
to make sure the situation does not continue. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, ma'am.
As I had pointed out in my opening remarks, Senator Isakson
of Georgia is the senator who represents the Puzey family and
would like to--we would be honored to give you a minute,
Senator, to talk about Kate's case and anything you can help us
with. Thank you for going back there next week and trying to
see justice come.
Mr. Isakson. Madam Chairman and Congressman Berman, thank
you very much for holding this hearing. I did not know Kate
Puzey in life, but I attended her funeral service and met her
coworkers and her family and heard about her extraordinary
service to America and the pride she brought to my State of
Georgia. And I made a commitment that I would do everything I
could to see to it that Lois Puzey and her family first found
closure and, second, the dissatisfaction that they had made an
effort to see to it that what happened to Kate never happened
to anybody again.
I am personally very grateful to each and every one of you
for being here. I know the demands all of us have on our time.
This is one of the most important things we can for the
Americans and for the continuing integrity of the Peace Corps.
I am very honored you gave me a chance to speak. Thank you,
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, very much, Senator. Thank
And now I would like to welcome the witnesses for our first
panel. Our first witness, Lois Puzey, is the mother of
Catherine Irene Puzey, or Kate, who was murdered in Benin on
March 12, 2009, while serving in the Peace Corps. Mrs. Puzey is
here to serve as Kate's voice, and to help prevent other
families from experiencing tragedies like hers.
Mrs. Puzey married her husband in 1976 and had 2 children:
David and Kate. Mrs. Puzey retired in 2006 from the Department
of Defense school system after teaching military dependents for
30 years at both Augsburg High School in Germany, and Kadena
Middle School in Okinawa, Japan.
I would like to express on behalf of our committee our
sincerest condolences to you and your family, Mrs. Puzey. And
thank you for appearing before us today.
Next we will hear from Carol Clark. Ms. Clark served as a
Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal from 1984 until '85. She is
currently an elementary school teacher in Jones County, North
Carolina. She received her master's degree in counseling and a
bachelor's degree in biology from Wake Forest University. She
has served her community in many ways, including as a child
enforcement agent and a community college counselor.
Ms. Clark, I would like to thank you for your bravery in
sharing your experiences, we greatly appreciate your testimony
Also appearing before the committee today is Jessica
Smochek, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh in 2004.
She is a board member of First Response Action, a non-profit
organization that seeks change in the Peace Corps' sexual
assault policies, and that provides assistance for former Peace
Corps volunteers who have been victims of traumatic crime.
Ms. Smochek, thank you also for the courage to come before
our committee today.
Next we will hear from Karestan Chase Koenen. Dr. Koenen
was a Peace Corps volunteer from '91 to '93. She is a licensed
clinical psychologist and she studies the interplay of genetic
and environmental factors in the production of stress-related
mental disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder,
generalized anxiety disorder, and depression.
Dr. Koenen, we are honored to have you here today.
Finally, we welcome, Ms. Jennifer Marsh. Ms. Marsh
currently works for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National
Network, RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual assault
organization. RAINN manages the National Sexual Assault Online
Hotline and coordinates services and communications with over
1,000 affiliate sexual assault service providers for the
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline.
Thank you for taking the time to appear before us today,
All of your statements have been made a part of the record
and we ask that you summarize your statements to 5 minutes.
Mrs. Puzey, we will begin with you. Thank you. And if you
could put your microphone close to your mouth, that helps us to
hear you. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MS. LOIS PUZEY, PARENT OF LATE PEACE CORPS
Mrs. Puzey. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Berman,
and committee members, my name is Lois Puzey. And I am here
today on behalf of my daughter Kate Puzey, who was murdered
March 12, 2009 while serving with the Peace Corps in the West
African Nation of Benin, and to urge Congress to enact
legislation so that other families won't have to endure a
Kate was a deeply compassionate, talented, upbeat person
with a gift for understanding others. She was twice elected
student council president in high school and graduated at the
top of her class. After college, she joined the Peace Corps,
serving as a teacher in a rural village.
Kate loved her time in Benin. She built close ties to her
village. And she was considered a model volunteer. So how did a
competent model volunteer become the victim of murder?
From the beginning, Kate was warned about the man who is
now accused of killing her, Constant Bio, a local who taught in
Kate's school. And he also worked part-time for the Peace
Corps. Kate was told that Mr. Bio pressured students for sex
and had bothered children with them.
Over time, her concern escalated. And then in February
2009, students and fellow teachers told Kate that Mr. Bio had
actually raped two of his students and begged her to help.
Despite the potential danger, Kate tried to do the right thing.
Since her village had no Internet service and she was 12 hours
away from the Benin country office, she traveled to the nearest
work station, where she e-mailed the Peace Corps country
director, asking for her assistance. Kate particularly
emphasized the need for confidentiality because she understood
that the brother of Mr. Bio worked in that same country office
as the Peace Corps director.
Tragically, the way that Kate's e-mail was handled
ultimately led to her death. The country director fired the
accused without talking to Kate or without taking any kind of
precautions or doing any kind of investigation on her own. She
didn't take any precautions to remove Kate from her village.
And, even worse, the Inspector General's report indicates that
Kate's confidentiality was broken, apparently resulting in Mr.
Bio's brother telling him about Kate's e-mail.
Kate was never alerted to the danger. Within a few days,
she was murdered, it is believed by Mr. Bio and another man,
both of whom were arrested along with Mr. Bio's brother.
Kate was the heart of our family. And our lives have been
The Peace Corps was very supportive during the funeral and
made great efforts to honor her. That being said, we were
shocked by many of our experiences with them after Kate's
death. The Peace Corps provided us with very little
information. They refused to answer our questions about the
Inspector General's investigation and stopped all communication
with us after 4 months, leaving us by ourselves to piece
together what happened to our daughter.
Then 6 months after she died, her belongings arrived
unaccompanied, simply left in our driveway in a FedEx delivery.
Finally, we discovered that before Kate's death, the Peace
Corps had no whistleblower protections or training procedures
in place. These were first drafted 2 weeks after she died.
Feeling abandoned, in 2010, we created our own advocacy
group and have since had very improved relationships with the
Peace Corps, thanks to the leadership of Director Williams.
However, the Peace Corps has never acknowledged the critical
role it played in Kate's death. And we are also very painfully
aware that if ABC's 20/20 had not investigated her murder, we
would not have heard from them.
Our family deserves an honest acknowledgement and formal
apology from the Peace Corps for any actions that contributed
to our daughter's death.
After our experiences and hearing many other stories, we
also believed that whistleblower and victims' rights
legislation are urgently needed. In the past, the Peace Corps
has believed, as I believe the present administration believes,
that they have solved the problems, but, in truth, because of
the transient nature of the leadership, efforts have eroded
time after time. We do not want another family to endure the
nightmare that we live daily, made worse by the recent news
that those responsible for Kate's murder could go free.
Legislation is the only way to ensure reforms remain consistent
We still support the Peace Corps and understand the
instinct to protect it, but by not acknowledging and addressing
its systemic weaknesses, that doesn't help. That doesn't help
the Peace Corps, nor its volunteers. Instead, please build a
stronger, safer Peace Corps by passing legislation.
In the future, there will be another volunteer like my
Kate, who will want to do the right thing. Honor Kate's
sacrifice by doing the right thing now so that future
volunteers can serve safely.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Puzey follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. And we will do
so. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MS. CAROL CLARK, FORMER PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER
Ms. Clark. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. If you could push that middle button
there and then hold it really closely to your mouth?
Ms. Clark. Thank you, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member
Berman, committee members.
My name is Carol Clark. I am a school teacher, a former
Peace Corps volunteer, and a rape survivor. I thought I was
alone in my experience, but when I learned that women today are
still living through what I thought had been remedied decades
ago, I knew I had to come forward.
In August 1984, 3 months after I graduated from college, I
flew to Nepal ready to begin my lifelong dream of becoming a
Peace Corps volunteer. The Peace Corps staff never talked to us
about protecting ourselves from sexual harassment or assault. I
never expected that it was the Peace Corps' own staff members
from whom I would need the most protection.
Shortly after I arrived, our supervisor, the Nepalese Peace
Corps program director, told female volunteers he expected sex
in exchange for providing us with our living supplement checks.
We told our Peace Corps country director about this, but he did
nothing. He told us to grow a thicker skin and allowed the
program director to continue supervising us.
Three months later, the program director raped me.
Devastated and humiliated, I reported the rape to the Peace
Corps medical officer. Instead of helping me, he told me he was
disgusted with the volunteers and anything that happened to us
was our own fault. I was not offered counseling.
The Peace Corps allowed my program director to continue
supervising volunteers. And before the Peace Corps would assign
me to a supervisor other than my rapist, I was forced to
confront him in front of the Peace Corps medical director, who
had chided me. Being forced to see this man again, to speak to
him, and to convince the Peace Corps he had raped me was
extremely traumatic, but I did it.
The Peace Corps took no action against my assailant, even
after the forced confrontation. In fact, soon after I returned
to service, he arrived unannounced at my village. It was clear
he told his friends in the village they could violate me
without fearing repercussions from the Peace Corps. He was
Soon after he left, a Nepalese official with whom I had
worked told me my Peace Corps friend had told him how I like to
have fun and demanded sex. When I refused, he picked up a
knife, grabbed my neck, and choked me. He forced me to put a
used, torn condom on him and began raping me. For the next 15
hours, he raped and beat me. For a long time, I prayed to live.
And after that, I prayed to die.
When I finally escaped, I took my bike and rode, ran, and
waded my way to Janakpur. From there I flew to Kathmandu, where
I reported the rape. The medical officer was angry with me for
putting myself in a dangerous situation. He did not document
the crime. And my attacker was not brought to justice.
The Peace Corps flew me back to Washington, DC, instructing
me to tell others I was leaving because of dysentery. The
program director who had initially raped me was given my home
address and assigned to collect and mail me my belongings.
After I left, so many Nepal volunteers had been sexually
assaulted or sexually harassed that they created their own
safety survey. It showed numerous volunteers had been verbally
and physically harassed and three more had been raped. They and
I sought change from the Peace Corps.
My former Peace Corps regional director told me our stories
had made a difference, the Peace Corps was creating new
training materials and future volunteers would be safer, better
prepared, and better treated. I believe the Peace Corps wanted
to change then, as it does now, and that some improvements have
been made, but the women sitting next to me prove those
improvements were lacking.
In the last 20 years, according to Peace Corps' own data,
Peace Corps volunteers reported more than 1,600 incidents of
sexual assault, over 1,000 of which occurred in the last
decade. Sadly, the three most recent years for which Peace
Corps has released statistics have seen the greatest number of
Director Williams is a good man, but the Peace Corps has
had almost 30 years since I was a volunteer to fix things on
its own. And it has fallen short. The women trusting their
lives to the Peace Corps cannot wait decades more for Peace
Corps policies to organically mature. They need the immediate,
permanent, and meaningful change that comes through legislative
accountability. For that, we look to you.
Please help us build a better, stronger, safer Peace Corps
so that our daughters can help the Peace Corps build a better
[The prepared statement of Ms. Clark follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF MS. JESSICA SMOCHEK, FORMER PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER
Ms. Smochek. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen?
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Hold it closer to you. Thank you.
Ms. Smochek. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Berman,
committee members, my name is Jessica Smochek. I am a former
Peace Corps volunteer and a Peace Corps rape survivor.
Thank you, Congressman Poe, Congresswoman Tsongas, and all
of you who have been working hard to make the Peace Corps
better, stronger, and safer for volunteers.
In 2004, I was 23 years old. Fresh out of college, I joined
the Peace Corps, an organization I admired for its noble
ideals, and set off for Bangladesh. The Peace Corps said we
might experience harassment during our posting but that it just
took some getting used to. This statement did not prepare us
for the realities we would soon face.
Shortly after I arrived, for example, a group of six local
men began following me home. Eventually they surrounded me,
grabbed me, knocked me to the ground, and began touching and
kissing me. I was terrified and helpless. Eventually they
When I reported this, the Peace Corps staff told me those
types of things just happened. Over time, the harassment only
increased. My site mates and I reported this to the Peace Corps
staff as well, but most of our reports went unanswered.
A male volunteer offered to teach us self-defense, but the
Peace Corps rejected this offer. We asked for pepper spray or
mace, but the requests were denied. We begged to be moved to a
safer site. Again the Peace Corps refused.
Soon the very act of reporting incidents to the Peace Corps
was very dangerous. Locals who learned of the reports became
furious. They told me and my site mates it would hurt me if I
didn't keep quiet. We reported these threats, too, although
with each report, the men grew angrier. And the Peace Corps did
Then on December 6, 2004, shortly after 5 o'clock p.m., the
men dragged me into an abandoned courtyard. And the violence
began. They started by raping me. And they forced other objects
inside of my body. And when they were done violating me with
their bodies and their objects, they intensified their physical
assault. They yelled insults and threatened to kill me. I began
to think it would never end. And so I begged them for the death
they promised. They just laughed. And after what seemed like a
lifetime, my ordeal was over or so I thought.
I went to the capital to report the rape, but the Peace
Corps medical officer did not examine me, perform a rape kit,
or collect any evidence. Instead, she took away my cell phone.
This, unfortunately, prevented me from warning other volunteers
and my site mates about what had happened. In fact, she told me
that if I did talk to other volunteers, that I should tell them
that I was going to Washington to have my wisdom teeth taken
Before leaving Bangladesh, I was forced to go back alone to
my village, where my rapists remained, to gather my belongings
and spend the night there one last time. Then, still reeling
from the trauma, I was put on a plane alone back to Washington,
The Peace Corps didn't send me home or give me the option.
And so I stayed in Washington, DC, for the next 45 days. When I
arrived in DC late at night, no one was there to meet me at the
airport. I was forced to find my way through this large,
unfamiliar city on my own.
The Peace Corps first sent me to a male gynecologist. He
was insensitive, and it was excruciating. The Peace Corps also
required me to meet with a counselor, who made me write down
everything I had done wrong for this to occur. As examples, she
suggested that I had been out after 5 o'clock p.m., I hadn't
screamed, and that I didn't fight back. Rather than feeling
safe and supported, I felt belittled and blamed.
After 1\1/2\ months in DC, I was medically separated from
the Peace Corps and shunted onto Worker's Compensation. There I
have been repeatedly forced to describe my injury on forms and
to strangers to get the support I need to recover. It can take
months or years to receive reimbursement. This must be changed
so that survivors do not have to go from agency to agency
fighting for help they need to recover.
I wish what had happened to me had made a difference for
the other volunteers in Bangladesh, but shortly after I left,
the country director without my permission told the female
volunteers I was raped, that it was my fault, and rape was
always a woman's fault.
Years later, I learned at least three other women in my
volunteer group were sexually assaulted and probably because of
what the country director had said that day did not report it.
The Peace Corps must change. Women must be better protected
from rape and from the callous treatment that too often follows
Maya Angelou said, ``History, despite its wrenching pain,
cannot be unlived but if faced with courage need not be lived
again'' I am hopeful that today's hearing will precipitate the
much needed change in Peace Corps' sexual assault policies and
that my nightmare need not be lived again.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today and
for bringing these very important issues to light.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Smochek follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much for your
STATEMENT OF KARESTAN CHASE KOENEN, PH.D., FORMER PEACE CORPS
Dr. Koenen. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Berman,
committee members, my name is Dr. Karestan Koenen. I am an
Associate Professor at Columbia University and an Adjunct
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Could you put the microphone just a
little bit closer to your mouth so we can hear you better?
Dr. Koenen. Sorry. Yes. I am an Associate Professor at
Columbia University and an Adjunct Professor at Harvard
University. I teach about psychological trauma. My
understanding of and my passion for the topic are the result
both of my education and, unfortunately, my own experience with
the Peace Corps.
I joined the Peace Corps in 1991. It was clear from the
beginning that my country, Niger, was dangerous. Also clear was
the Peace Corps staff inadequacy in dealing with the effects of
danger on volunteers. For example, 1 week during our in-country
training period, several men broke into our site, assaulted two
male volunteers and raped a female volunteer.
I recall telling my site director that I felt unsafe, but I
was told that I was making too much of what had happened. The
Peace Corps staff then instructed us not to tell our families
about the attacks.
The staff's instructions to calm down and keep quiet were
the only training we received on how to respond to an assault.
Despite the fact that serious crimes had occurred on the
training compound, we did not receive any training on how to
minimize the risk of assaults or how to report them should they
On December 27, 1991, I was forced to learn by experience
about the dangers of sexual assault. A Nigerian man held me
down, ripped off my shorts and underwear, and raped me.
The doctor who worked for the Peace Corps was kind but
neither trained nor equipped to perform a forensic rape exam.
No one gave me the opportunity to make a formal statement or to
speak with law enforcement. And although the doctor reported
the rape to the Peace Corps' country director, he did not visit
me, he did not call me. I was soon put on an international
flight to Washington, DC, alone.
Upon arriving at Peace Corps headquarters, I was greeted
with a cold reception. I was first sent to a male gynecologist.
I recall finding the pelvic exam incredibly painful and him
telling me to stop being hysterical and to just calm down.
I was then sent to speak with a Peace Corps staff
investigator, who said, ``I am so sick of you girls going over
there, drinking, dancing, and flirting. And then if a guy comes
on to you, you say you have been raped.''
My final straw was when my Peace Corps country director
said to me when I wanted to prosecute, ``It is your word
against his. He said you wanted to have sex, and we believe
As an expert in the field of psychological trauma, I know
how dangerous an inadequate response to the rape victim can be.
Fear of being disbelieved or blamed, as I was by the Peace
Corps, is exactly why so many survivors do not report their
The Peace Corps' own data suggests two times more assaults
occur in the Peace Corps than those that are reported. In
addition, over a decade of research has demonstrated that the
social support a survivor receives in the aftermath of a trauma
highly influences the risk that the victim will develop post-
traumatic stress disorder. A negative social response leaves a
survivor in a quagmire of self-blame for the rest of her life.
I have examined the current sexual assault protocols and
policies of the Peace Corps. And though they have evolved since
my time of service, they remain dangerously inadequate.
Several other experts have reviewed the Peace Corps' 2011
sexual assault guidelines, as I did, and have written letters
to the committee expressing their concerns with the policies
and their recommendation for change. I am including these
letters for the record as part of my testimony.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Without objection.
[Note: The letters offered by Dr. Koenen are not reprinted
here but are available in committee records.]
Dr. Koenen. The affidavits and letters from other experts
make it clear that it is time for a systemic, permanent
solution that addresses better training for volunteers,
training for in-country staff, and appropriate vetting and
accountability for staff in the United States.
Of these needed reforms, there are eight things the Peace
Corps could do right away to dramatically increase and improve
the care provided to its volunteers. They are, one, discontinue
the use of Peace Corps' current sexual assault training video
called ``Serving Safely'' that shows survivors apologizing for
endangering themselves and causing their rapes.
Two, put victims' advocates in every region. I am pleased
that the Peace Corps has hired a victims' advocate in DC, but
caring for the in-country and post-service needs of what are at
least 100 sexual assault a year is too great a burden for one
person to carry.
Three, provide travel companions for rape and sexual
assault survivors returning home to the U.S.
Four, eliminate the harmful and minimizing distinction used
in the Peace Corps' own materials to distinguish major sexual
assault from minor sexual assaults.
Five, set up a task force with the Department of Labor to
determine how to help survivors get adequate and timely
benefits without being forced to reexperience their traumas.
Six, enlist the help of outside experts with authority to
ensure Peace Corps policies continually reflect best practices.
Seven, five deg.provide survivors the choice of
And, eight, fire the staff and treatment providers who
blame victims and harm them.
I believe Director Williams to be well-intentioned, but we
simply cannot ignore history. The Peace Corps has promised time
and time and time again to fix these problems, and it has not.
We need Congress.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about my
experience and my hope for a better, stronger, safer Peace
[The prepared statement of Dr. Koenen follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you for those recommendations.
STATEMENT OF MS. JENNIFER WILSON MARSH, HOTLINE AND AFFILIATE
SERVICE DIRECTOR, RAINN
Ms. Marsh. Good morning, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Member
Berman, and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you
for inviting me to speak today.
Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to commend
the women who have spoken before me for their courage and
My name is Jennifer Wilson Marsh, and I am the National
Sexual Assault Hotline director at the Rape, Abuse and Incest
National Network, or RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual
assault organization. RAINN is recognized by the Justice
Department and Congress as a leader in the field of sexual
assault services and has provided thousands of hours of
training and technical assistance to sexual assault service
providers across the country.
In addition, RAINN has been selected to be a member of the
Justice Department's National Victim Assistance Standards
Consortium and has assisted more than 1.5 million people
affected by sexual violence through the national sexual assault
I will begin by outlining several best practices used in
serving victims of sexual violence. Peace Corps has a long
history of successfully promoting peace around the world. And
we believe that if applied correctly, these best practices can
strengthen the Peace Corps organization and their response to
I will follow this with a description of how RAINN is
currently working with Peace Corps and conclude with my
The following best practices are drawn from Department of
Justice standards. Accessibility of quality advocacy services
following an assault is paramount. The value of these services
is lost if victims do not know of their existence.
Peace Corps volunteers need to receive through layered and
repeated trainings information describing services available to
them in the event they are assaulted. This training should also
include a comprehensive overview of issues surrounding sexual
violence and risk reduction strategies. We are familiar with
the bystander intervention training that Peace Corps is
currently developing for volunteers and believe that this is an
effective model for risk reduction.
All staff members who may be first responders should
receive a minimum of 40 hours of training and complete annual
refresher courses. Training should focus on the special needs
of sexual violence victims and be reinforced by all Peace Corps
administrative policies and procedures.
A sexual response team, or SART, model is the most
effective approach when responding to sexual assault victims. A
SART is most typically comprised of a victim advocate, law
enforcement, and a forensic medical examiner. This approach is
a streamlined response, thereby minimizing victim
retraumatization. And it creates a singular point of contact,
allowing the victim to focus on their recovery.
Without a guarantee of confidentiality, victims may not be
willing to seek help for fear that their experience will be
scrutinized. Control over personal information is not only a
matter of privacy; it is also a matter of personal safety. It
should be made clear during all trainings how information
disclosed will be maintained and shared.
Through the national sexual assault online hotline, we have
seen the importance of safe and secure help. With confidential
services, victims can discuss concerns and are more likely to
report the crime or seek long-term support.
Finally, there needs to be a clear grievance procedure for
victims who feel as though they were treated poorly by staff or
did not receive an adequate response following their assaults.
On March 23rd, 2011, RAINN and the Peace Corps signed a
memorandum of understanding, or MOU, to collaborate and share
educational resources and training tools on sexual assault risk
reduction and response.
Since the signing of our MOU with Peace Corps, we have been
asked to review training content and procedures. While Peace
Corps is still in the process of updating and improving their
response to victims of sexual assault, we believe that they are
moving toward implementing some of these best practices.
As the Committee on Foreign Affairs is charged with general
oversight of the Peace Corps, we believe it should do the
following: Enact legislation that will ensure that Peace Corps
adopts established best practices in victim response and
include a mechanism for formalized succession planning, to
address high staff turnover due to mandated appointment limits.
We recommend Peace Corps expand on the progress already
made with the hiring of a victim advocate with the addition of
mobile victim advocates. These trained staff would be able to
immediately travel to the location of a volunteer who has been
assaulted and provide on-the-ground help, completing the SART
model. The staffers in this position should be experienced in
navigating foreign, legal, and cultural systems, and victims
will benefit from having an advocate negotiate the unique
challenges of being victimized abroad.
In conclusion, we believe that Peace Corps is making
positive steps in improving its response to victims of sexual
assault. The areas of staff and volunteer training,
accessibility of services, and clear confidentiality policies
are basic tenants of effective service provision for victims of
There are best practices already in existence in the field
of victim services that can further assist Peace Corps in
updating these aspects of their programs. Implementing these
recommendations will help ensure victims will have access to
the quality services they need and deserve.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Marsh follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much to all of you
for your brave testimony. Thank you for appearing before our
committee today. Your testimony is going to make a big
Mrs. Puzey, I wish to offer you my most sincerest
condolences on the loss of your brave daughter. Your testimony
will change the way that business is being done in the Peace
Corps. You are very brave to come before us. I am sorry you
only have 5 minutes to describe what a dreadful life-changing
experience it has been for your family.
And I know that the criminal case is about to begin in your
daughter's case. I don't know if that is true, but I don't want
your testimony to have any negative influence on that. Perhaps
you could explain to us what you think in detail needs to
change in the Peace Corps that would prevent such a terrible
travesty to occur again.
Mrs. Puzey. Well, as I said in my testimony, I really feel
like that it is important to have those whistleblower
protections in place and also training procedures and not just
training procedures, of course, for the volunteers so they know
their avenues, they know how to report, but it is also very
important the staff does know what to do, particularly people
in positions like the country director, so that they will know
how to handle a situation when it comes to them. I think that
is very, very important.
And then, of course, on the other side, to be sensitive to
victims' families, I have always said that Peace Corps--you
know, when everything is going right, the Peace Corps is one of
our country's best ideas, but, you know, when things go wrong,
that is where that component, that response component, needs to
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
Dr. Koenen, I wanted to ask you about the blaming the
victim and how that would impact the recovery of victims of
assault, sexual assault, or any kind of crime committed against
them. One of the themes in the testimony that we have heard is
that the Peace Corps was not equipped to handle the complaints,
did not act on it, the accusations were not taken seriously,
and, more than anything, it was the blame the victim that was
at play here.
Can you tell us how blaming the victim impacts the recovery
of the victims of sexual assault?
Dr. Koenen. Yes. Thank you, Chairman. The social support or
the reaction that a survivor receives in the acute aftermath of
an assault, so immediately within hours, 24 hours, is the key
factor in determining whether she or he will have long-term
mental health consequences or not. And the reason is that in
that acute period, the victim is incredibly vulnerable. She is
in fight or flight mode. And she is playing over in her head
``Why did this happen to me? How did this happen to me?''
And it is by nature when something terrible happens, we
question ourselves and we question our behavior. And then when
you meet a provider, who, rather than ask you questions about
``How can we keep you safe? What do you need? Here are some
choices on what you would like to do,'' the blaming the victim
just adds to that questioning of your own behavior and you end
up internalizing that blame. And psychologically that can keep
you from talking to anyone else about it. It can keep you from
seeking help that you need because you are worried that other
people are going to respond the same way. And long term it can
negatively affect your mental health.
It is a big predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder. In
fact, blaming the victim after assault increases the risk of
post-traumatic stress disorder more than the characteristics of
the assault, more than whether the victim is physically
injured, more than whether there is penetration or not. It is
really the key factor in whether the victim will recover or
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
And, lastly, Ms. Smochek, I wanted to allow you to comment
on the type of safety and security information that was
included in your handbook and welcome materials. Did you find
that to be useful?
Ms. Smochek. In my handbook, there was just a very general
fact sheet I would say. There was no clear-cut who to call when
something happens. There were no steps in place. You know, if a
crime is committed, who do you call? Where do you need to go to
find it? You know, how do you find a safe place? How is your
confidentiality going to be kept? None of that was in there.
You know, buried deep within the packet was a number for I
believe the OIG's office in Washington, DC.
So as a survivor, you know, after you have been raped and
sexually assaulted, to have to go through your handbook to try
to find a number to call in DC is ludicrous. Many volunteers
don't have cell phones or cell phone, you know, don't have
electricity or capability to make that type of phone call. So I
feel that it was very inadequate.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Thank you,
Mr. Berman. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
And I just want you to know that I think your testimony
today and the other things you have done will work to empower
other victims and also I think have helped to motivate the
Peace Corps to make sure that people who will suffer from your
experience get the assistance that they are entitled to.
And, Mrs. Puzey, I just want you to know I think the world
will miss your daughter's hope and sense of community and her
commitment to public service. We all lose when a young person
with such energy and promise is taken from us.
Ms. Marsh, you touched on this in your testimony, but could
you take a moment just to talk about your evaluation of what
the Peace Corps is starting to put in place once again and what
they need to do and particularly focus on this issue of whether
one person based in Washington with this responsibility is
enough or do we need--you talked about a notion of roving
personnel that can go to the site and make sure that the
country director, the program director, the people involved,
the medical officer, are operating correctly.
Ms. Marsh. In terms of the work that we have done with
Peace Corps so far, I was invited several weeks ago to
participate in their bystander intervention training, which is
a model used for risk reduction or prevention of sexual
assault. And I found that to be a really positive experience.
In terms of the victim advocate, I do feel like having the
victim advocate here in DC is a step in the right direction.
However, as mentioned by the women before me, I feel as though
having somebody on the ground in person is crucial and somebody
who doesn't have collateral duty.
So cross-training a medical officer to also be a victim
advocate or security officer to be a victim advocate I don't
feel is adequate. I believe the victim advocate needs to be
solely responsible for the entire and holistic approach to case
management and victim services. So if it is having a victim
advocate here who oversees victim advocates in the field,
whether they are mobilized when an assault occurs and can
travel to accompany the victim or if they are based in the
region, I believe those are different options to explore, but I
believe that that is imperative to a successful sexual assault
Mr. Berman. And then I would like to ask any of the
witnesses if Congress based on what we have heard today and
other information about this decides to embark on a legislative
implementation and mandate for the best practices that Ms.
Marsh talked about to become the enforced policy of the Peace
Corps to institutionalize it, as a number of you have
mentioned, like us, directors come and go and creates an
institutional basis for these best practices and funds what
needs to be done here, do you think that that can significantly
reduce the situations that you found yourselves in or should we
just end this program?
Dr. Koenen. I would like to speak to that. I am sure the
other witnesses would as well. I want to say I love the Peace
Corps and I support the Peace Corps. And I would be devastated
if my testimony were used to stop Peace Corps funding, cut
funding, or eliminate the Peace Corps.
What we want is a stronger, safer Peace Corps. What we need
is legislation to cement the changes that RAINN and First
Response Action have recommended so that when directors come
and go, when times change, when budget priorities change, that
crime is prevented and victims are treated adequately so that
they can have the best chance at recovery.
And I can speak in my case. If the changes proposed by
First Response Action and the ones I outlined in my testimony
were in place, they were legislated when my assault occurred,
my recovery would have been faster and much better because
every single thing they recommended would have completely
changed my experience with Peace Corps DC. Just the
implementation of regional victims' advocate would have
transformed all of our experiences.
And I know that budget priorities are tight right now, but
the cost of doing nothing is far higher. You see the cost in
the witnesses for today.
Mr. Berman. Anyone else in the 15 seconds I have left?
Ms. Clark. I would like to say that I would be heartbroken
for my testimony to be used to destroy an institution that I
absolutely love. I still believe in the ideals of the Peace
Corps. We as an agency of Peace Corps are there to show the
rest of the world the best parts of the United States. Peace
Corps is there to make changes in the world for better, to
provide education, to provide ways for people to learn to have
a decent living, income that will promote communities around
the world to become more economically self-sufficient.
I do not have the goal of destroying the Peace Corps. My
goal is to make the Peace Corps better, to help them provide
better responses. We can't stop all sexual assaults and
violence from occurring. The key is to provide strong,
effective best practices when problems do occur.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
Mr. Poe. Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you once again for
holding this hearing.
And I appreciate all of you all for being here today. I
appreciate your courage. But also, Ms. Clark, I appreciate your
service in the Peace Corps. I agree with you totally and the
doc here that the answer is not to get rid of the Peace Corps.
The answer is to make it better and safer for, as I say,
America's angels abroad. That is who you all are. And Kate was
the same way.
Mrs. Puzey, what is the one thing you want to hear from the
Peace Corps Director?
Mrs. Puzey. Well, Director Williams did give us an apology,
but the apology that we have heard from the Peace Corps has
been if there was anything that we felt was not compassionate,
they are very sorry. And I have never doubted the compassion of
Director Williams or the present staff. But what we really
would like to hear is an apology and to acknowledge any actions
on the part of the Peace Corps that were responsible for my
Mr. Poe. I hope you get that apology from the Peace Corps.
Mrs. Puzey. Thank you. I do, too.
Mr. Poe. Dr. Koenen, let me ask you something about the
victims of sexual assault. And I think it is awful that the
sexual assaults occur. A hundred and twenty-two occurred in the
Peace Corps that they admit in 2009 overseas. But this is a
unique crime in my opinion based on my experience on the bench
in Texas for a long time, because of the way it affects the
emotional stability or the inner spirit of a crime victim.
Would you agree or not--and elaborate--on the fact that
victims, like Peace Corps victims that are sexually assaulted,
want the Peace Corps and us to give them validation for what
happened to them; in other words, to support their side, so to
speak, as opposed to immediately distancing them from us and
making them at fault, making them feel that it is their fault
that a crime was committed against them? Is that part of what
we need to do as a society and the Peace Corps to support the
validation of what they say?
Dr. Koenen. Absolutely. Victims of sexual assault, all
victims of sexual assault in the Peace Corps, need to know from
their initial contact with someone after the assault that the
Peace Corps is on their side, that they are not the criminal. I
think in all of our cases, we have felt like we were the
criminals. And rape is always the responsibility of the
The Peace Corps needs to change the culture so that victims
know that the Peace Corps is on their side. And that is crucial
for, as you know from your work, crucial for the recovery of
the victim. It is essential. And it is a unique crime in that
Mr. Poe. Do you think that the Peace Corps as we see it
now, based on your all's testimony and things that you are
aware of, needs really a change in mindset, that the Peace
Corps needs to have a mindset different about when crime is
committed against a Peace Corps volunteer somewhere in the
country, somewhere in the world and, rather than say, ``Oh,
don't say anything. We might hurt our diplomatic relationship
with this Third World country,'' and all of these other excuses
you have heard? Do we need a mindset in the Peace Corps, do you
think, change in mindset?
Dr. Koenen. The Peace Corps needs a change in mindset and a
change in culture from victim blaming to supporting victims.
And we are all fond of talking about the Peace Corps family.
And we need to act like a functional family in which if one of
us is hurt, the family comes to our support, rather than
treating us like criminals.
Mr. Poe. Ms. Marsh, a couple of questions. Do you think
that we can fix this problem and support the Peace Corps
internally; in other words, change policy in the Peace Corps,
or do we need legislation?
Ms. Marsh. I do believe that we need legislation, again, as
we have mentioned before, because of the appointment turnover.
We have heard in our meetings with Peace Corps about programs
or policies that may have been done previously, but it was
unclear who was responsible for them or the people that were
responsible for them have since left. So I think that
legislation is the best way to guarantee that these best
practices stay permanent, in place, and institutionalized
through all layers of the Peace Corps.
And along with that notion is the training, not only of
first responders, country directors, but anybody in the Peace
Corps who may come into contact with a victim. And the training
should be layered throughout the Peace Corps experience, not
just one singular training on this issue.
Mr. Poe. Thank you.
Madam Chair, without objection, I would like to introduce
three other statements from Peace Corps volunteers that have
come to my attention, but they want to keep their names
anonymous. And I would like to submit their stories for the
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Without objection.
[The statements offered by Mr. Poe follow:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Judge. Without objection.
Mr. Poe. And I yield back my time. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Ms. Wilson of Florida?
Ms. Wilson. Thank you, Madam Chair.
My question is for Ms. Marsh, I guess, who is representing
the Peace Corps. And I have a map in front of me that sort of
outlines the places where these rapes have occurred. And rape
is a horrible crime. It is tantamount to death in my opinion.
It is just the killing of the spirit, of the soul of women.
I am just wondering about the local governments. Is there
any sort of a compact or contract assigned between local
governments and the officials, especially those that are
highlighted in red and purple, where most of these rapes have
And some of them are not that far from the United States. I
am looking at the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica. They are
in red. So if these places are this dangerous, what about the
local law enforcement and the local elected officials in those
countries that are responsible for law and order in their
respective provinces or countries? Is there ever any
communication with these people pressing charges just as if
these people were murdered?
Ms. Marsh. I would just like to clarify before I respond
that I am not representing Peace Corps. I am representing
RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Ms. Wilson. Okay.
Ms. Marsh. So I am going to defer that question to Director
Williams and also agree with you that rape and sexual assault
is a horrible crime. According to the FBI, it ranks only to
homicide in terms of trauma.
Dr. Koenen. I would like to defer to Director Williams to
talk about the specific arrangements in different countries,
but I think that what Congress can do and where we can make
effective change is through legislation here that will change
the Peace Corps' response to rape.
And, as I mentioned in my testimony, there are three things
that--I said eight things, but there are three things that can
be done right now. They can stop the video that they are
showing, ``Serving Safely,'' that blames victims for their
assaults. They can end this major and minor distinction of a
sexual assault that is again victim-blaming. And I would like
to hear a definition from them of a minor sexual assault. And
they can provide care and travel companions for survivors.
And those are immediate things that can be done right now
while legislation dealing with local law enforcement is very
important but a long-term more complex process.
Ms. Wilson. Just a follow-up question. Is there ever any
contact at all with--you are talking about intervention after
it has happened. What I am trying to ask a question about is
prevention. How do we threaten these countries, to say, ``We
are not sending women to be raped if this doesn't stop?'' I
mean, ``We will pull all of our Peace Corps volunteers out'' or
are there any sorts of threats or any level that these
countries were--and I am talking about the purple and the red.
If you have this map in front of you. It is unconscionable
that these many people are being victims and victimized in
these countries. Is there any warning that this is a dangerous
place to send Peace Corps volunteers who are women?
That is what I am asking: Prevention. I understand what you
mean about intervention and what is happening after these rapes
occurred, but how do we help prevent some of this? I am at a
Dr. Koenen. In terms of prevention, what we have talked
about, what RAINN talked about, was bystander intervention
training with volunteers. Again, the video I have talked about
pulling is part of their prevention training.
And I think that the best prevention is that Peace Corps
can start treating victims of sexual assault with respect and
set an example for people in these countries of how the U.S.
expects its volunteers to be treated. If the Peace Corps is
mistreating its own victims, then how can we demand the people
in these countries to treat the women any better?
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
Ms. Schmidt of Ohio?
Ms. Schmidt. Thank you. And, first off, the courage of the
women up here is astounding. And I hope that the Peace Corps
takes note of it.
I have never been so incensed and so enraged at an agency.
My rage began before your testimony when I had a constituent a
few years ago that just needed to come home 2 days early for
her sister's wedding. Her father had died. But the
inflexibility of the Peace Corps disallowed her to come home,
and she quit the Corps.
And at that time, I thought to myself, ``They have really
got to get a grip.'' Well, it is a major grip, not a minor
grip, because my message is every woman has the right to say
no, no matter how the act occurs or at what point the act is
And this isn't just an American right. This is a human
right. And when you go overseas, you are not just representing
American rights and values. You are representing human rights
and values. And it is incumbent upon the Peace Corps to
understand its own mission. And I applaud you for wanting the
Peace Corps to continue while you were so violently attacked
and no one came to your aid.
Mrs. Koenen, Dr. Koenen, I applaud what you are saying
about changing this video. It needs to be done today, not
tomorrow, but today, that there is no difference between major
and minor assault. An assault is an assault. And when it does
happen, and you have to go back home, sometimes 12-15 hours
overseas, you need a companion with you right there. Those are
easy fixes. And I want to work with you for legislation to put
the Peace Corps on the right track to protect you.
And, Mrs. Puzey, before I finish, I just want to ask you,
what do you want from us here today?
Mrs. Puzey. Whistleblower protection rights and victim
rights legislation, both.
Ms. Schmidt. Whistleblower rights, protection rights,
Mrs. Puzey. Yes.
Ms. Schmidt. I think we can work on that.
And, Madam Chairman, I yield back my time.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Ms. Schmidt.
Mr. Connolly of Virginia?
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
And, again, thank you to all of you for your courage in
your testimony here today. And, Mrs. Puzey, our hearts go out
to you and your family. And I hope this hearing gives some
small comfort that your daughter's memory is not lost and that
working together, we can try in her memory to make the Peace
Corps stronger and more compassionate.
It seems to me that--you know, I have worked with the Peace
Corps for a long time here on the Hill. And I have traveled to
many, many Peace Corps missions abroad, met with many
volunteers. And your stories are, if you will, sort of an under
side of the Peace Corps that obviously troubles all of us.
And we can't make everybody 100 percent safe everywhere. It
is not that kind of world. And, frankly, the work of the Peace
Corps puts people in much riskier situations. I mean, I have a
daughter at a university here in America. And, sadly, what you
described sometimes occurs in U.S. campuses as well. But there
is counseling. There are training and awareness programs. There
are prevention programs.
And I guess what troubles me the most about your testimony
was that there was, frankly, lacking a standard of compassion
when somebody signs up as a volunteer and their family supports
that effort, understanding the risks. And God forbid something
It seems to me that we drop everything as a Peace Corps
family, as you said, Dr. Koenen, and we respond. We take care
of the family. We do everything in our power to make sure the
system of justice in the host country is working on behalf of
that volunteer and his or her family and that everybody in the
chain of command, from the medical director to the country
director to the people back here, is clued in, is genuinely
compassionate and sensitive and working on your behalf. That is
the standard we have to reach.
We can legislate. And it sounds today like we need to. But
at the end of the day, inculcating that compassion, that
empathy, that understanding that, as Judge Poe said, you know,
rape is never the victim's fault--we can never accept that--has
to be cleared from our minds and the proper perspective adopted
always and zero tolerance for any variation from that standard.
I know we are going to hear later from Director Williams
about reforms and measures he has put in place. And I have
heard the appreciation of Mrs. Puzey for those efforts. And I
know that we can and will have to go further.
But I just want you all to know that on a bipartisan basis,
we continue to support Peace Corps, as do each and every one of
you, but we are also going to make sure that, God forbid--well,
first of all, we are going to do everything we can to try to
make sure that we are cognizant of risks and dangers. And we
are going to minimize them, the goal being to try to get to
zero risk. We know that is an elusive goal, but that ought to
always be what we are pushing ourselves toward. And then should
something happen, the full force of compassion and resources of
the Peace Corps and, indeed, of the United States Government
are behind you and your families.
Thank you for your testimony today. And I yield back, Madam
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
Ms. Buerkle. Thank you, Madam Chair.
And I would like to thank all of our panelists today for
coming here and for sharing your testimony. As a woman and a
mother of four children, a grandmother of three granddaughters,
it is appalling to me. And it breaks my heart to hear what you
have gone through. And, Mrs. Puzey, my deepest condolences on
the loss of your daughter as well.
I would like to join in with my colleagues here. And it
will be a bipartisan effort to get the legislation in place to
do what we need to do to make our volunteers safe and to change
what is happening within the Peace Corps.
I have spent over 14 years with pro bono advocacy in
domestic violence. So I have a keen awareness that, as my
colleague just stated, rape is never the victim's fault. And it
cannot be that mentality. And that mindset must never be
accepted. So I will work hard with my colleagues to get this
I would like to ask, Dr. Koenen, with regards to healing
and recovery, is that possible? And what can we do to help the
victims who are suffering?
Dr. Koenen. Healing is absolutely possible, as is recovery.
I think you can see that from the women, the testimonies of the
people here who were able to be here and to testify as part of
In terms of what we can do, putting the things in place to
support a victim's recovery starts before an assault even
occurs. That is why we keep reiterating stop victim blaming;
training materials; change the mentality of the Peace Corps to
one that supports victims from one that blames victims and this
distinction between major and minor sexual assault, again which
is victim blaming; set in protocols into place in terms of
confidentiality so people know their confidentiality will be
respected and that we have control over who our stories are
told to; provide a support person to travel back to the
country; provide adequate support once the victim is back in
the country; the victims' advocate to coordinate services
across all of these complex systems. So all of those things can
aid in recovery. The initial response of Peace Corps staff is
key in that.
One of the things I want to assure anyone, not just Peace
Corps volunteers, who have experienced a sexual assault is that
recovery is 100 percent possible.
Ms. Buerkle. I just want to comment that I understand your
commitment to the Peace Corps. And I understand your desire not
to see the Peace Corps disrupted. But, as my colleague Jean
Schmidt said, this has to stop. And this legislation and our
efforts need to start today, now so that we can make the
changes required to prevent any more harm from being done.
Again, thank you all very much for your courage for being
here today. And we will look forward to working with you. I
yield my time. Thank you, Madam Chair, for----
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Payne. Let me thank all of you for coming. I am
familiar with your testimony, although I was not here
personally to hear it. I would like to commend each of you and
as a very strong supporter of the Peace Corps. I have visited
many sites. I have been to graduations of the ceremonies when a
new class had their graduation and so much euphoria and pride.
In some countries, they make outfits that reflect that
particular country. And so I have been a tremendous supporter
of the Peace Corps and the tremendous amount of work that you
have done and really commend all of you.
I think that part of the problem--you know, and I hear talk
about we are going to get this legislation going. Part of the
problem basically has been in my opinion the U.S. Congress,
U.S. Senate, the House because this is not the first time that
we have had these kinds of hearings. Back in 2001, the Dayton
News had a 20-month investigation of Peace Corps. One lady
found an answer to something that happened in 1979 from this
series run by the Dayton News. And there was going to be
reaction. We were going to deal with it in 2001. Then in 2004,
Senator Dodd had legislation that was going to go to correct
some of these. And it passed the House, but it died in the
Senate. Two thousand seven, we had the same thing.
So, you know, when we look at the problems--and it is easy
to bash the Peace Corps. And there are probably others who
might want to see the program ended, might have been a hidden
agenda because we are having tough times at home, so we can't
afford to spend a single penny abroad philosophy that I have
heard a lot from some newcomers.
But, one, I certainly commend you all for your support of
the Peace Corps. First of all, to be in the Peace Corps, you
have to be unique in the first place. So I am not surprised how
you feel about it.
I guess my own point is that if we are really going to do
something, then the Congress has to act. I mean, you can't just
blame it on an agency that probably would like to have some of
the enforcement that the legislation would do. Of course, they
could do things on their own, but if it is backed by the
Congress, by law, signed by a President, then you might see
something happen. So, one again, we will bash the Peace Corps.
They haven't done a good job, which is true in some instances.
So I just hope that there is going to be the will on the
part of people who are saying how indignant they are that this
is happening. For the last 11 years, I have heard what we ought
to do. And we haven't had one single piece of legislation.
So I really don't have any questions. I don't know if any
of you would like to comment. Yes?
Mrs. Puzey. There were whistleblower protections in that
2007 Dodd bill. If you had passed it, it is a possibility that
my daughter would still be alive. So I do urge legislation at
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much. And I hope that we can. It
passed the House, but once again it just languished and died in
the Senate. And that is a story of our life. So I really
I will yield back. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Smith?
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. And I want to
especially thank you for calling this extraordinarily important
hearing and for the bravery of the women who have testified
Hopefully this hearing, each of your instances, each of
your traumas should have been the game-changers and those of
others who have suffered like you have, but if this hearing
isn't, I don't know what else could be.
I mean, the legislation is important. I am sure the
distinguished gentle lady from Florida will take the lead on
this. We know she will. And we will all do our parts. But I
hope that the Peace Corps itself will realize that deploying
young and very vulnerable young women and men, but mostly
women, obviously, to places where there is enhanced risk.
Unlike State Department personnel who are deployed, who have
access to the compound, they are much more likely to be in a
protective state, get hazardous pay if they are in a more
vulnerable deployment area, the Peace Corps volunteers--and the
chart certainly shows it. I agree with my colleagues. There are
areas of the world that are much more dangerous to women when
deployed there. And that ought to be a serious factor to find
some other area and locale where these women could be deployed.
Let me just say your testimonies are absolutely chilling. I
know every member of this committee and those who will follow
this transcript, perhaps they are watching on C-SPAN, will be
moved. We need a zero tolerance policy. And that goes
throughout the entire process: Training; the assessment of
risk; I thought, Ms. Smochek, failure to prepare; failure to
protect; the issue of the failure to respond adequately; and
then the aftermath, of course, the worst fears realized.
You know, the IG will be testifying shortly. And she points
out that since Fiscal Year 2004, the Office of Inspector
General has visited 66 posts, made many recommendations. And
some 85 percent of the posts were visited. And, yet, 38
percent, 25 out of 66, were found to be deficient in some
aspects of their site development. And, as she points out, in
appropriate site development increases the risk that a
volunteer's community safety net will be compromised if a
The conclusion of the OIG is that--and I would appreciate
your comments on this--while some important OIG recommendations
remain open, the agency has made substantial progress in recent
years in developing a comprehensive safety and security
program. Do you agree with that?
And, finally, on the issue of harassment, usually an act or
acts of sexual assault are preceded by either verbal or some
other harassing behavior that is clearly the harbinger of what
may be headed toward that individual or individual's way.
Did the Peace Corps personnel to whom you reported to,
those who have been so horrifically victimized, take seriously
your concerns about the harassment? We know in related issues
of sex trafficking and other violence against women, where
there is a culture of impunity, very often it just works
horizontally to all women, not just those who are bought and
sold and turned into commodities under sex trafficking. But
when it comes to women who are extending up and going out as
ambassadors, as one member said, angels to the world, it seems
to me that we have to have zero tolerance with regards to that
So if you could?
Ms. Smochek. Yes. I can certainly speak to the second part.
I know from my experience, I was placed at a site with two
other female volunteers. And we all received extensive verbal
and physical harassment and sexual harassment, even from the
very first day. And we kept reporting incidents to the medical
officer, to the safety and security officer and just got the
same reply of ``Just toughen up. And just deal with it.''
And I believe that what happened to me, I believe that
the--I mean, I was targeted by this group of six men. I believe
that my ultimate gang rape by them and near death could have
absolutely been prevented. My site was absolutely unsafe. If
anyone had actually come to really look at all of the reports
that were being filed and taken them seriously, I mean, we
asked. We specifically said, ``We are not safe. We do not feel
safe. We are going to be harmed.'' And we were not taken out of
this dangerous site.
And so, I mean, that is just a case in how even what is
deemed minor sexual harassment or assault can lead, and most of
the time can lead, to much greater crimes. And so I think that
there definitely has to be more accountability and response for
all reports that are submitted. And they need to definitely be
followed through. Every single report needs to be followed
through or to really ensure the safety of the volunteer.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Smith.
Mr. Rivera. Thank you, Madam Chair.
And thank you to the witnesses for testifying here today
regarding some horrific circumstances. And, particularly Mrs.
Puzey, my condolences to you and to your family. Thank you for
coming here today. But also thank you for the service that you
desired to give to your country and to other countries, to
mankind. I can't imagine a more altruistic sentiment than the
ones with which you entered the service in the Peace Corps,
particularly since, as has been mentioned, the Peace Corps has
been an integral part of the assistance around the world that
we provide to other countries. But at the same time, I hope the
entire world is listening, particularly those that can make a
difference with respect to your circumstances, that they are
listening as well.
It is quite concerning to many of us that you all have
mentioned many instances, I believe, where perhaps the agency
has dragged its feet in implementing systematic reforms with
respect to safety. And that is very troubling to us here and I
am sure to those who are thinking about volunteering with the
organization in the future.
I think the Peace Corps should be held to the highest
standard of accountability when it comes to the safety and
protection of the volunteers. And we need to make sure that
that plan is brought forward and if it hasn't been thus far,
that it needs to be, particularly after today's hearing. I
would like, I believe--since I am the last questioner on the
panel because I don't see Congressman Chabot here, I am very
interested in moving forward and hearing from the agency with
respect to what you all have been talking about.
So I am not going to ask any questions. I want to help the
chair move forward and get to the next panel, but I will give
you all since usually witnesses do not get closing statements,
I will give you all my last minutes. I have got about three.
Maybe each of you could take 30 or 45 seconds. Just let us know
your final thoughts. What do we need to do? What do you want to
Ms. Smochek. I will go ahead and start. One thing that----
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. A little closer.
Ms. Smochek. Sorry. One thing that definitely needs to be
considered in legislation and has not been really addressed by
the Peace Corps in their latest movements forward is the health
care services and health care providers within country but also
with the United States. And that is really key because they,
again, are the first responders and not only making sure that
there are trained people who can work with the survivors but
after service how difficult the issue is to navigate the
workers' compensation system when you are still in trauma mode.
And once you are separated from the Peace Corps, that is it. No
one is there. There is no liaison. There is nothing there. You
are just left to navigate it completely on your own. Some
people get information. Others do not. And it really, you know,
can further harm the survivor.
Mr. Rivera. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Ms. Clark. One thing I would like to point out is that even
this week, we have received new reports of women who have had
similar experiences. I think that, as women failed the support
of Congress, there will be a spike in reports. I would like
that not to be used as an indication that Peace Corps should be
disintegrated but, rather, that Peace Corps has taken the
chance to reform.
With that in mind, I would say that apologies without
action are useless. I have had apology from the Peace Corps. I
haven't seen the action. My goal is that we have long-term, not
short-term but long-term, action that can be provided through
Mr. Rivera. Dr. Koenen?
Dr. Koenen. I would like to conclude just by saying what we
all want is a better, stronger, safer Peace Corps. And we have
all come forward with our stories at great personal cost to ask
Congress to cement the changes that we request in legislation
so that future generations can serve in the Peace Corps and be
Mr. Rivera. Thank you very much.
Ms. Marsh. I would like to reinforce what the women who
spoke before me said and also go back to my testimony and
suggest the Peace Corps follow best practices recommendations
and reiterate that I feel as though they are taking steps in
that direction. And I believe that this hearing will help them
to further that process.
Mr. Rivera. And, Mrs. Puzey, finally?
Mrs. Puzey. As has already been said, I think that
legislation needs to happen now at this time if reforms are
going to be consistent over time. And also from the Peace
Corps, I would like to see them be sympathetic and
compassionate and give the support to victims' families because
things are going to go wrong. So the families should also have
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Thank you for
excellent testimony. Thank you for your courage in appearing
before us today. We will work on legislation to move forward.
Thank you very much, ladies.
Now I would like to introduce The Honorable Aaron Williams,
Director of the Peace Corps. Director Williams was sworn in as
Director of the Peace Corps on August 24, 2009, the fourth
director in the Peace Corps' history to have served himself as
a Peace Corps volunteer.
Mr. Williams served from 1967 to 1970, in the Dominican
Republic. Upon completing his service, he became Coordinator of
Minority Recruitment and Project Evaluation Officer for the
Peace Corps in his hometown of Chicago. Mr. Williams has
pursued a career in development, and was awarded the USAID
Distinguished Career Service Award. We thank Mr. Williams for
taking the time to appear before this committee. We will
consider your testimony as having been printed as full.
And if you would summarize your statement to 5 minutes? And
we will ask questions at the appropriate time. So we will just
give them a few minutes.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. We made good use of our time, didn't
we? Thank you, Mr. Williams. You are recognized. And feel free
to summarize your statement. Thank you very much, sir, for
appearing before us. Thank you, sir.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE AARON S. WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR, PEACE
Mr. Williams. Good morning. Madam Chairman, Ranking Member
Berman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity
to testify about the steps that Peace Corps has taken to
improve the safety, security, support, and care of our
I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer. So I am a part of
the Peace Corps family. It is an honor to lead this agency that
has meant so much to me throughout my life. The health, safety,
and support of every member of our Peace Corps family is my
number one priority.
Peace Corps volunteers represent the best that America has
to offer, and we owe them nothing less in return. We make a
commitment to every volunteer that we will support them during
and after their service in the same way that every volunteer
makes a 27-month commitment to service overseas.
Unfortunately, the Peace Corps has not always lived up to
its commitment. The powerful testimony of the courageous
witnesses today shows us that the trauma and pain that they
experience can be acute and lasting. We sincerely regret that
we did not fully appreciate this in the past. It is not our
intent to victimize our volunteers a second time. We want to do
everything we can to help them heal.
The brave women who have come forward have shown us that
the Peace Corps has not always been sufficiently responsive,
compassionate, or sensitive to victims of crime and their
families. It is heartbreaking to learn that. And I apologize
for any additional pain the agency has inflicted on our
The victims of sexual assault deserve nothing but
compassion and support. Each volunteer is a valued and
treasured member of the Peace Corps family. A crime against one
is a crime against all of us.
Since the Peace Corps was founded 50 years ago, more than
200,000 Americans have served in 139 countries. We are all
enormously proud of their service, both to the United States
and to the host nations. Today we have 8,600 volunteers in 77
Volunteers embody compassion, generosity, and a dedication
to our mission of world peace and friendship. It is these
qualities that deepen our pain when there is a loss. We care
profoundly about the welfare of our volunteers. Every life lost
and every act of violence against a volunteer is a tragedy.
I have personally met with the parents of Kate Puzey, the
outstanding volunteer who was murdered in March 2009. I assured
Mr. and Mrs. Puzey and their son David that the Peace Corps and
the United States Government have united with them in seeking
justice for Kate.
Lois, Harry, and David have shown incredible strength, and
I am deeply grateful to them for helping us to improve the way
we handle sensitive information and support the families of
fallen volunteers. I regret that the Peace Corps did not do a
better job early on in supporting and communicating with them.
My staff and I have also met with a number of returned
volunteers who have shared personal experiences of rape and
sexual assault. I would like to thank them for their courage in
speaking out and for helping us to make needed reforms. They
have enlightened us. And they have helped us understand the
lasting damage suffered by victims of crime. We do not want
those experiences repeated.
The Peace Corps of today takes the issue of sexual assault
prevention and response seriously. And we are dedicated to
providing compassionate victim-centered support. Since I became
Director in August 2009, the Peace Corps has put in place new
policies and practices to reduce the risks faced by volunteers
and to ensure they receive our full support when a tragedy
Let me tell you a little about the things we have done. We
have issued Peace Corps' commitment to sexual assault victims,
a set of core principles to ensure we provide timely,
effective, and compassionate support to victims of sexual
assault. We have implemented and trained our staff on new
guidelines for responding to rape and sexual assault. The
guidelines are victim-centered with specific procedures that
all of our staff around the world have to follow to respond
promptly and provide the best possible support.
The agency's sexual assault working group is developing a
comprehensive sexual assault prevention and response program.
This group, by the way, includes returned volunteers, survivors
of rape and sexual assault, as well as our staff, which has
expertise in trauma response.
Since last year, we have been developing comprehensive new
training for volunteers before and during their service on
sexual assault prevention and response. We will begin rolling
this out this summer.
We have signed a memorandum of understanding with RAINN,
the nation's largest organization on battling, combatting
sexual violence. That is going to be a very important part of
Also, at the response of the brave women of First Response
Action, I hired a nationally recognized leader in victims'
rights to be our agency's first victims' advocate. She is here
with me today. She will make sure that victims of crime get the
emotional, the medical, the legal, and other support they need.
At the suggestion of Congressman Poe--and thank you, sir,
for your suggestion--I created the Peace Corps volunteer sexual
assault panel, made up of outside experts and returned
volunteers who were victims of sexual assault, to help us
design and implement our sexual assault and risk reduction and
Madam Chairman, we are committed to a reform agenda. We
have improved the agency's global safety and security program
by working to implement the recommendations by our Inspector
General that were made in 2010. I believe these reforms will
better protect our volunteers around the world. More needs to
be done. And I look forward to working with you and others to
ensure the continued success of our volunteers. Their
willingness to serve our country is an inspiration.
Thank you very much. And I look forward to the questions
that you might ask.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Williams follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Williams.
We thank you for your service.
Although it is not a perfect comparison, much has changed
on college campuses in the past 20 years in the way that
administrators, faculties, students, and all of the staff
respond to victims of sexual abuse, and it has improved for the
better in the past 20 years.
When I went to college, you did not know where to go for
help, how to report it, or get any kind of help. A lot has
changed. Mistakes and crimes do occur, but they are treated in
a far more serious vein than before, not a perfect comparison
but as it relates to the Peace Corps.
I was just jotting down what we have heard from the
victims, and the common denominator is to change the focus from
a culture of blaming the victim to not blaming the victim. So,
I am curious to hear about how you are shifting, not you as a
person, but the culture of the Peace Corps, and the folks that
you have in-country to shift their focus from blaming the
victim and trying to downgrade the crime--and it is a crime--to
be more supportive in helping the victim to report the crime,
making it easier to report the crime, and not blaming the
Some of the notes that I was taking down, training for in-
country personnel on how to respond to sexual assault
survivors, the doctors that you have in-country, that they need
training in post-rape exams so that they get the evidence they
need in order to present the case in court, meeting advocates
in DC and throughout and different cities of people who
understand what the survivors are going through, Workers'
Compensation deadlines--to eliminate that deadline, Peace Corps
should facilitate interaction among assault victims, instead of
trying to separate them or downplay the crime that has been
perpetrated against them--having whistleblower and training
procedures in place. Also, many of the survivors shared with
us, either verbally or in their written statement, and talked a
lot about the training video that is still being played and
whether that is adequate, that really focuses on the problem,
or whether it is blaming the victim and trying to make it sound
like they might be the ones responsible for the crime.
Also, reporting and making that reporting public, which has
been a very important part of the college campus change in
their culture, is mandating through legislation that they have
to report the crimes that are committed on campus. Where are
those unsafe places? Is the Peace Corps reevaluating where
volunteers are placed? Also the Annual Volunteer Surveys, if
that is shared with others so that we know where the sexual
assaults are taking place.
So, I would just share those with you and perhaps you could
discuss how blaming the victim, more than anything else, is
changing in the Peace Corps and the country selection, whether
we are making sure that we have evacuation procedures in place
to get those victims out of harm's way.
So, let me ask you the following questions. The Peace Corps
is subject to the 5-year employment rule, which statutorily
restricts the tenure of U.S. direct hires, including regional
directors, county desks, country desk officers, et cetera. The
GAO noted, ``One factor that may contribute to the Peace Corps'
difficulty in implementing its safety and security policies is
turnover among key managers.''
Do you think that this 5-year rule makes it more difficult
for the Peace Corps to protect its volunteers? Would you
support legislation eliminating this 5-year rule?
Mr. Williams. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Regarding the 5-year rule, it was put in place, of course,
by the legendary Sargent Shriver when he was Director of the
Peace Corps in order to make sure the Peace Corps had a
continual flow of fresh blood, returned volunteers from the
field to help design and continue to implement Peace Corps'
I think that there is always a need for fresh blood in any
organization, especially I think in terms of an agency that
focuses on young people around the world volunteering, but at
the same time I am more than willing to entertain and discuss
with you and other members of the committee the aspects of the
5-year rule that might have a direct bearing on our safety and
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
In response to the survivors' testimony, the agency's
frequently asked questions brochure and safety and volunteer
support brochure assert that, ``Volunteers who are victims of
sexual assault can expect to receive extensive support as it
relates to their safety, medical, and psychological care, legal
options, and continued service with the Peace Corps.''
However, the testimony presented to this committee and
testimony that I have gotten since we have posted this hearing
indicated that volunteers in general are inadequately trained
on sexual assault issues or often placed in dangerous
situations, that the agency's in-country response frequently
fails to meet the survivors' needs, that upon return to the
U.S., volunteers often receive hostile, rather than supportive,
treatment and that institutional obstacles often prevent
survivors from receiving long-term medical and mental health
How do you explain the significant discrepancy between what
the brochures say, what the video says, and what has been
presented before us?
Mr. Williams. Madam Chairman, there is no doubt that what
these courageous women have done has opened our eyes to a
problem that we need to correct. And we need to correct it now.
And I want to work with you to do that.
Let me just mention one thing about the video. I am going
to replace the video immediately because I have listened very
carefully to the victims and their view of the video. We have
been over the past few months designing a new revamped training
program, which will include also pre-service training. And so
we are going to have state-of-the-art.
One of the important things that we are doing right now is
the fact that we are going to be listening and working closely
with RAINN. RAINN is, as you know, a preeminent organization.
They are going to guide us.
I was listening very carefully to the RAINN
representative's testimony this morning. I think that she has
provided a road map, if you will, of things that we need to
follow as we move forward to revamp and reform the Peace Corps.
So rest assured that this type of thing of blaming the
victim will not continue in the Peace Corps today.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. I thank you so much for your
attitude, I am very confident that those changes will take
place. Thank you, Mr. Williams.
Mr. Berman. Well, thank you much, Madam Chairman.
I would like to continue down the line that the chairman
started in terms of some of the specific suggestions. When one
reads the e-mail or not reads because I didn't but listened to
the show and heard Mrs. Puzey talk about the e-mail from her
daughter to the country director, I reached a conclusion that
unless there is something I don't know, such a high level of
recklessness to allow the perpetrator's brother to somehow have
access to it is almost beyond comprehension because that was a
sophisticated e-mail that warned of the dangers. It laid out a
road map of what should not happen. And it seems to have been
ignored unless, again, there are facts I don't know.
Whistleblower protection in that case I think means two
things: One, as a general principle, no retaliation against the
victims who are filing complaints regarding what happened; but,
secondly, the issue of confidentiality. And is that something
that through practices or legislation you could support?
Mr. Williams. Well, thank you, Congressman Berman. Without
a doubt, we would be open to looking at legislation that could
strengthen the Peace Corps in terms of providing enhanced
safety and security for our volunteers, no doubt about it. I am
prepared to sit down with any member of this committee or
anyone in the Congress and discuss this.
We have already been engaged in conversations regarding
whistleblower protection with Senator Isakson.
Mr. Berman. You are open, then, to a----
Mr. Williams. Yes.
Mr. Berman [continuing]. Legislative approach to deal with
the institutionalization of the reforms that you are embarking
Mr. Williams. Yes, sir, I am, because, referring back to
the question from Madam Chairman, the 5-year rule is an issue,
obviously, that we need to take a look at. And so to the extent
that we could codify these important best practice policies and
best practices is no doubt something we need to give serious
consideration to, working in conjunction with the Congress.
Mr. Berman. A second issue. This issue of the role of the
Peace Corps with the victim who is separated from the Peace
Corps in terms of very specifically the Workers' Comp
situation, there are issues of ongoing medical attention,
counseling, other benefits under the law, going through that is
not such an easy process in terms of the forms and the
procedures for utilizing the Workers' Comp system to get
compensation for those costs.
I was led to believe from the testimony the Peace Corps
sort of eliminates its involvement once the volunteer has
separated. Why does that have to be?
Mr. Williams. Congressman, I think you are absolutely
right. We need to take a serious look at that in terms of our
ongoing support for members of the Peace Corps family because
just because a volunteer has been separated from official
service doesn't mean that there is not an ongoing need for care
and support. And I want to work out an arrangement whereby we
can do that.
One of the things that I have asked my victims' advocate in
her new position to do is to sit down with me and the
Department of Labor to see how we can coordinate to provide
better support to volunteers so they won't have to navigate the
bureaucracy on their own. I think they deserve that. And I am
prepared to look into how we can do that in a very effective
and efficient way.
Mr. Berman. Another suggestion I heard coming from the
testimony was while what you have done in terms of the advocate
in Washington is a very important first step, at least until
the training has so taken hold that each country team can
provide those services on their own, isn't there logic in
having some group of roving advocates who can go on site and
make sure that the best practices are, in fact, being
Mr. Williams. I think that is a good management practice
across the board in many of our operations. And certainly I
want to entertain that and determine how we can best move
forward. I think it is an excellent idea.
Mr. Berman. Thank you very much. And I do appreciate your
openness to legislation because I do think a pretty compelling
case has been made that it is important for us to
institutionalize this. And obviously we want to get your
reactions as we go along to the workability of what we are
Mr. Williams. Thank you very much because we want to
cooperate to the extent we can with the members of this
committee. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
Mr. Poe. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Williams, good to see you again. Thank you for coming
by and letting us vet this issue and your response. And I
believe in about 6-8 weeks we are going to meet again on some
of the things we talked about earlier.
I look at this issue as a human rights issue. You know,
America, we are the human rights country. We go throughout the
world promoting human rights in a whole bunch of ways. I think
it is important, though, we return and focus on the human
rights of Americans that go abroad in the Peace Corps.
And thank you for your service in the Peace Corps. It is a
great organization. I don't want to see it disappear. I think
we ought to encourage it, make it better.
I see this issue as kind of several parts. First, when a
crime is committed, we have the victim. And then we have the
Peace Corps response, which is what we are going to work on
legislatively, I hope.
But also the Peace Corps response must I think include two
other avenues that haven't been talked about today. And that is
that Peace Corps' interaction with the country that the victim
was in and what is their response, how are they going to deal
with this crime committed in their country.
And, lastly, the perpetrator. There is a criminal involved
in these criminal actions. And how do we see our interaction
with some foreign country going after the outlaw that committed
this crime? And so those are the things that we need to work
We don't have time to verbalize those now. But I would hope
as we proceed with legislation, with your help, with RAINN, and
all of the victims that are here, that we can figure out a way
to make the country that we are trying to help, these angels
are helping, be responsive to the crime that was committed in
their country as well.
And I will just hear some short comments from you on that
issue if you care to make them.
Mr. Williams. Thank you, Congressman Poe. And thank you
also for the care and concern that you have for the Peace
Corps. You supported the Peace Corps. And I have appreciated
our conversations. We will follow up, as you say, in a few
weeks to continue that.
Regarding care of victim, this is going to be first and
foremost in our response. We are going to make sure that it is
a victim-centered approach. We are going to be compassionate.
All of our medical personnel have been trained in how to work
with victims of sexual assault. There is nothing more
It is not just going to be at the country or the post. It
is going to be a continuum when they return back to the United
States, either to their home of record or if they are in
Washington. And it is a team effort. We are all going to make
sure, all of our staff, our senior management, is focused on
this. We are committed to making this, changing the culture
that these courageous people have encountered in the past. We
are going to change that.
Regarding the host country, the host countries around the
world, as you know so well, want the Peace Corps to stay there.
And so we find in working with the country team, with the
Ambassador, with the regional security officer, each of the
Embassies, that the cooperation we get from local law
enforcement has been very good. They are very interested in
finding the perpetrator, the criminal who attacked a Peace
Corps volunteer, no matter what the type of attack is. And we
have seen a lot of good cooperation from them working with our
local safety and security coordinator in each of our countries.
And that will continue to be the case. And we will do
everything we can to pursue that.
But, again, it is also something that the Ambassador in our
country, U.S. Ambassador, also has been very, very--in just
about every country we can think of where we have had issues,
they have been determined and have been a willing ally in this
Mr. Poe. I am going to yield back the remainder of my time,
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for calling
this very important hearing. And let me welcome you, Mr.
Director Williams. It is good to see you again. I appreciate
it. At the meeting we had early on, when you took over the
responsibilities as the head of the Peace Corps, as I have
indicated, I think it is one of the greatest organizations that
the U.S. back in the early '60s created. And I think they
really do an outstanding job.
And I think that this year, rather than having this kind of
hearing, unfortunately, we should be really celebrating the
50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. And hopefully we can
really come up with the corrective work that we can deal with
the problems and once again highlight the great achieves that
the Peace Corps has made.
I visit many developing countries. And one of the first
things they ask if you don't have a Peace Corps is, ``Can you
send in the Peace Corps?'' And the U.S. Ambassadors and the
heads of countries, many of them, as a matter of fact, many of
the leaders of countries today, had experience with the Peace
Corps. They even learn English at a Peace Corps school. And
they really want the Peace Corps there.
So I know that the problem is not with the host countries
but there has to be better coordination between the host
country and the Peace Corps. As I mentioned before, I have been
to the graduation ceremonies after new Peace Corps members
come, usually a whole group, those who determine they are
staying. And usually, you know, 98 percent of them go through
the training. They have their celebration and their graduation.
I have spoken at a number of those in sub-Saharan Africa in
particular. So I have a very strong feel for the Peace Corps
and what you have done.
I wondered this, number one, if in certain countries sexual
assault is more prominent in other countries, as we know. They
are all different. Is there any special kind of precautions or
inculcation with the volunteers to assess them of the fact that
culturally in some places sexual assault has not been
prosecuted by that country? Does that come into play? And do
you do anything special in those areas?
Mr. Williams. Thank you, Congressman Payne. And thank you,
sir, for your historic support of the Peace Corps. I know you
take every opportunity to visit our volunteers and to learn
what they are doing.
I think that we have had very good success in host
countries in finding the perpetrators of these crimes and in
prosecuting them because, again, this is crucial to them
because, as you know ,they want the Peace Corps to remain in
their country. And so when there is a crime committed against a
volunteer, we have had very good cooperation from local
And the other thing is that we make sure that when a victim
has made a decision to pursue this with local authorities, that
the victim is accompanied and supported by the Peace Corps
every step of the way, but we have seen good support from local
Mr. Payne. Thank you.
Now I know you have a $26 million budget cut coming up in
this fiscal budget. And the programs that you are trying to put
in, is there any way you can preserve the work in protecting
some of these new initiatives that we are trying, in spite of
the cuts that you are going to evidently receive? Could you
ensure that you still work on these issues that have been
raised here today?
Mr. Williams. I am committed to making sure that whatever
resources are provided by the Congress, whatever level of
budget we have, we are not going to compromise on the health,
the safety, and security of our volunteers. We might not be
able to go into a new country, might not have as many
volunteers come, expanding in certain countries, but what is
first and foremost for us is the health, safety, and security
of our volunteers. We are going to use every dime we have to
make sure we support that.
Mr. Payne. Just finally, as you know, as we have talked
about the death of our volunteer Cathy, it certainly concerns
us all. And, now, we are waiting for the final report of her
We have great concern for the safety of Peace Corps
volunteers who report violations of other Peace Corps workers.
Can you lay out what protections are in place to ensure that
volunteers are protected so that we don't have a similar
Mr. Williams. Yes, sir. Thank you.
We want to be sure that we protect the confidentiality of
any information that any volunteer provides to our staff. So we
have trained overseas staff in how to respond appropriately
when volunteers bring allegations of wrongdoing to their
This policy, which dates to early 2009, requires any staff
member who receives or has knowledge of a volunteer's
allegation to treat the allegation with the utmost discretion
and confidentiality, to take appropriate measures to ensure the
volunteer's safety, and to ensure that the allegation is given
serious consideration, including referring to our Inspector
That is our policy. And, more than the policy, that is the
way we are implementing this. And we are going to provide
And I travel. I have traveled to 10 countries in the past
1\1/2\ years since I have been Peace Corps Director. And my
senior staff travels extensively. These are the kinds of
questions and concerns that we express and look into deeply
when we do that. So not only do we have a policy. We are going
to implement the policy. We are going to follow up and provide
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Ms. Buerkle. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Mr.
Williams, for being here this morning and giving us this
opportunity to question and also for your willingness to sit
through the very difficult testimonies we heard earlier.
I have several questions. I would like to begin by both the
Bush administration and the Obama administration have
encouraged and talked about doubling the number of Peace Corps
volunteers. Do you think that given what has gone on and what
doesn't seem to be under control at this point, that that would
be a prudent objective for the Peace Corps?
Mr. Williams. I think that right now we are in 77
countries, Congresswoman. And that is a very effective
footprint worldwide. I believe that we could grow and still
manage our responsibilities in a very sound way because we are
going to make the reforms, we are going to implement those
reforms. And we are going to get the best possible expertise
that we can bring to bear to help us manage this as we go
forward. So I am confident that we could continue to grow, but
all of this, of course, is going to be dependent upon our
Ms. Buerkle. In your testimony, you talked about training
for the volunteers. And that has not been implemented yet. When
do you expect that that will be implemented?
Mr. Williams. We are in the final stages of finalizing the
new training. We are going to start rolling it out this summer.
So, you know, in a couple of months, we will roll it out.
And also we want to listen very carefully to our colleagues
at RAINN as we move forward with this training because it is
important to train, first of all, our staff, but also just as
important the volunteers so that we have an effective dialogue
between staff and volunteers as we move forward.
Ms. Buerkle. If you would, could you please let us know
when that begins to get rolled out and keep us informed as to
the progress of that?
Mr. Williams. I certainly will. I will be happy to do that.
Thank you for the question.
Ms. Buerkle. We heard testimony this morning and
specifically in the instance of Kate. She was in an area, a
remote area, that didn't have Internet or phones. How will you
address that going forward so that these volunteers have a
safety net, that they can have some means of communicating any
danger that they might feet?
Mr. Williams. One of the things that is our goal when we
place any volunteer in a site is to make sure they are placed
in a community setting where, in fact, they are not going to be
alone, per se. They have counterparts that they see every day,
whether they are health care workers or teachers. There are
host families. We work with local law enforcement. We take
careful attention. We pay careful attention to site selection.
There is supervision by our staff and headquarters.
Also, we listen very carefully to the volunteers. There is
something we have in Peace Corps which we didn't have when I
was a volunteer, which I think is a wonderful new arrangement.
That is something called a Volunteer Advisory Committee. And
they provide a lot of information and oversight in many ways to
staff. I listen to them very carefully. I meet with them when I
travel. And so we spend a lot of time thinking about site
At the same time, if a volunteer feels unsafe, if he or she
feels that this is not a safe setting, I want my staff to take
immediate action to look for other places for the volunteer to
work because we have other sites. In all the countries where we
work, there is no need for one of our volunteers to feel unsafe
in a situation. We have to listen to the volunteers.
Ms. Buerkle. And so can you tell us what changes have been
made? Because we heard from a panel this morning that when they
expressed their concerns to their superiors, they were ignored.
Mr. Williams. Well, I think, first of all, we have
established a policy of listening to volunteers. I have asked
the regional managers for Africa, Asia, Latin America to carry
out these policies to make sure we provide oversight.
I listened to--the Volunteer Advisory Committees are a very
important source of information because they represent the
volunteers. They are elected by the volunteers. And they are
not shy about providing me with e-mails and calls to tell me
about things that they believe need to be changed. So we are
going to listen to the volunteers. And I am going to make sure
as a practice that if a volunteer feels unsafe, we have to take
Ms. Buerkle. And so the whistleblowers' provisions and
concerns, that makes that even more important that time is of
the essence so that we can protect whistleblowers and protect
those who are willing to call your attention to some situation
and not fear retaliation.
The last piece is we see on the map over here--and we have
been provided with those maps--that there are areas that are
even more unsafe than others. Those areas, will there be
enhanced safety procedures or will it be applied uniformly
across the board, regardless of the location?
Mr. Williams. One of the things that is important is that
we do not intend to put volunteers in unsafe countries. Many
countries want Peace Corps to enter their countries. But before
we do that, we have to make sure we have a permissive
We work with the Ambassador in those countries. We work
with the regional security officers. We conduct a full country
assessment before we agree to move into any country. And if a
country is deemed to be unsafe at any level, we are not going
to place volunteers there.
Ms. Buerkle. Thank you. I look forward to working with you.
This legislation couldn't be more important. And I think time
is of the essence. So thank you very much for being here this
Mr. Williams. Thank you. And I look forward to working with
you and your staff also.
Ms. Buerkle. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Ms. Buerkle.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. And, again,
thank you for calling this extraordinarily timely hearing
because I think it will get results. Sometimes hearings come
and go and they pass and nobody pays attention. This one will.
So thank you.
Let me just ask you, Mr. Williams. You said that there was
good cooperation with local authorities when there is an
allegation made. You mentioned that these countries are ``very
interested'' in tracking down the perpetrator. Could you define
exactly what that means? For example, how many arrests have
occurred? How many convictions have occurred as a result of
rapes of Peace Corps volunteers? What, if anything, was
required of our Peace Corps volunteer as that court case went
forward? And I mean be very, very specific.
One of the things we have learned with trafficking is that
countries will talk a good game and then be very deficient in
doing anything to mitigate sex trafficking. And it is often the
police. It is often the judiciary, untrained judges, and,
really, a culture of impunity. So if you could answer that one?
Secondly, today if a woman does report a concern over her
safety, I mean, today, right now, what absolutely happens in
that case? Is she redeployed? Is there an assessment done as to
the validity of her concerns? Is she in any way penalized for
coming forward and causing some aggravation on the part of
somebody higher up in the chain of command? Is there an
immediate redeployment? And is there, another question, an
assessment of places where these instances have occurred? Do
you keep in track?
For example, Bangladesh, in one particular locale, there
may have been five attacks. Do we have any idea in terms of
tracking whether or not there has been a pattern in any
particular area? And once an allegation has been made and it
seems to me that there would be no credible reason why an
allegation wouldn't be given full faith that that woman is
concerned about something about to or that actually happened.
Is that area then put on a do not send or deploy a Peace Corps
volunteer to that area so that there is a zero tolerance when
it comes to that particular area?
And, finally, in 2010, the agency's Inspector General found
that between Peace Corps and State Department, there was an
unclear responsibility that could ``compromise volunteers'
safety and hinder response to crimes against volunteers.''
The IG recommended that the Peace Corps develop formal
documentation with the Department of State's Bureau of
Diplomatic Security to clarify the roles and responsibilities
for overseas safety and security regarding Peace Corps staff
and Peace Corps volunteers.
To date, the Peace Corps and State Department lack a
memorandum of understanding establishing the agencies'
respective responsibilities to volunteers. Will that happen
immediately? And why hasn't it happened to date?
Mr. Williams. Thank you, Congressman. And thank you for
your support of the Peace Corps. I know you have been a strong
supporter of the Peace Corps.
Let me answer your first question regarding the pursuit of
the criminals. We have been very successful, we believe, in
working with our partners in host countries to bring
perpetrators to justice. In 2009 and 2010, arrests were made in
61 percent of the rape and attempted rape cases in which the
victim elected to file a report with local police. And so we
see strong support.
The other thing, these cases are high-profile cases in
small, developing countries, as you well know. Our Ambassadors
are determined to pursue justice for our volunteers. And so we
believe we have gotten good cooperation, and we continue to
Mr. Smith. Could I ask you on that point, from the 61
arrests, 61 percent of the arrests, could you maybe break down
for the record exactly how many that turns out to be and
whether or not they were convicted and whether or not they
served time in prison?
Mr. Williams. I don't have those stats with me, but I will
get them for you and submit them for the record. And I will be
happy to do that.
Mr. Smith. Because the arrests could be done to placate us.
Mr. Williams. Of course.
Mr. Smith. And then the real meting out of justice then
Mr. Williams. Very fair point.
Mr. Smith. Thank you.
Mr. Williams. Your point about the MOU with the Department
Mr. Smith. Yes?
Mr. Williams [continuing]. We are currently in discussions
with the Department of State about the clarification of
responsibilities per the IG's recommendation. We hope to have a
resolution of that very soon.
Mr. Smith. Yes.
Mr. Williams. That is way overdue.
Mr. Smith. Thank you.
Mr. Williams. We need to get it done. And my colleagues at
the State Department stand ready to do that.
Mr. Smith. Does your office work with and do you have
anybody that works with on a regular basis the TIP Office? I
know that you work with the Interagency Council, but is there a
regular dialogue with, for example, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca
because, again, there are many instances where, countries
where, especially Peace Corps women volunteers are being
deployed, where they happen to be a Tier 3 country and a
country on the watch list that could be Tier 3 soon? I'm out of
time, but if you could just--do you work with the TIP Office?
Mr. Williams. I don't know to what extent we have frequent
conversations with the TIP Office, but we, of course, work very
closely with Diplomatic Security. But this is an excellent
idea. I will talk to our safety and security people to make
sure we step that up.
Thank you, sir.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Smith. And thank you,
Mr. Williams. We will look forward. Our committee looks forward
to working with you; with RAINN; with victims and survivors of
sexual assault; with Peace Corps volunteers, former and
current, who are undergoing difficulties in drafting
legislation that will improve their reporting of crime and
improve your ability to respond to what is a serious crime and
change the culture to a victimless and not a blame the victim
mentality but blame the perpetrator and the person who is
causing the crime and not the victim.
So thank you, Mr. Williams. We appreciate it.
Mr. Williams. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Thank you and the
members of the committee for support of the Peace Corps and for
looking for ways to help make the Peace Corps stronger as we
move forward to another 50 years.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Absolutely.
Mr. Williams. I sincerely appreciate that.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
And, finally, I would like to introduce Kathy Buller,
Inspector General of the Peace Corps. Ms. Buller was named by
the Director to be Inspector General of the Peace Corps on May
25, 2008 with over 20 years experience in the Inspector General
As a member of the Council of Inspectors General on
Integrity and Efficiency, Ms. Buller is also co-chair of the
Inspections and Evaluations Committee and a member of the
Thank you, Ms. Buller, for appearing before us today. Your
full statement will be made a part of the record and we ask
that you summarize it in 5 minutes.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you and welcome.
Ms. Buller. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MS. KATHY A. BULLER, INSPECTOR GENERAL, PEACE
Ms. Buller. Madam Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member
Berman, and distinguished members of the committee, I thank you
for inviting me to appear before you and allowing me to
summarize my prepared statement.
I would also like to acknowledge the courage and the
strength that the returned Peace Corps volunteers and the Puzey
family demonstrated today when they testified before this
As the Inspector General of the Peace Corps, I am charged
with independent oversight of the agency. I began my tenure as
IG in 2008. And since then my office has reviewed key safety
and security functions at headquarters and our post-audits and
in our program evaluations.
We have issued many recommendations for improvement. While
the agency has made strides to improve its safety and security
program, several problems continue to surface. We continue to
report a lack of management oversight and inconsistencies in
safety and security staff qualifications and training.
Peace Corps is a highly decentralized agency with
headquarters staff primarily relying on country directors and
their staff to run the programs in the field. This model is
only successful when there are clear lines of communication,
well-established policies and procedures, and adequate
oversight functions at headquarters.
The Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security was created
in response to the 2002 GAO report to ``foster improved
communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability for
all Peace Corps safety and security efforts.'' However, posts
are not accountable to the Office of Safety and Security.
Instead, regional offices provide guidance to country
directors. And these offices are responsible for monitoring
compliance, which results in uneven implementation of policies
and procedures across posts.
Peace Corps must ensure that safety and security managers
at headquarters have the authority to ensure safety and
security functions at the post are carried out. The Safety and
Security Office must function as the office it was intended to
be, rather than merely a consultative office for overseas
Peace Corps' approach to safety and security is built on
the acceptance model. Fundamental tenets of this model include
building relationships, sharing information, training, site
development, incident reporting and response, emergency
communication and planning.
Our 2010 audit of safety and security indicated that Peace
Corps overseas safety and security staff are not consistently
qualified to support volunteers in achieving the goals of this
Volunteers serve in 77 countries. And I acknowledge that
what might be required in one country may not be applicable in
another. But there should be a baseline of what is acceptable
and the agency management needs to hold all posts accountable
to this standard.
In security situations, such as violent crimes,
kidnappings, and acts of terrorism, every second is vital. And
strong coordination between Peace Corps and the Department of
State is essential. There needs to be a memorandum of
understanding that would define each agency's role and
responsibilities in specified volunteer safety and security
situations. I have recommended that the agency formalize an MOU
with the Department of State on safety and security-related
issues. This MOU is a critical step in improving the agency's
capacity to effectively respond to security situations.
Volunteer safety and security is also compromised by the
agency's failure to implement OIG recommendations. Since 2004,
OIG has found that 44 percent of posts audited were not in
compliance with the requirement to obtain a background check of
post staff. After the policy was revised in September 2009, to
include short-term contractors, OIG found that 73 percent of
posts audited were not compliant.
We identified the timely and effective remediation of OIG
recommendations as a management challenge in the agency's 2011
performance accountability report. Also, the agency left the
chief compliance officer position vacant for 1 year and 7
Since the new chief compliance officer arrived, more than
300 recommendations have been closed. However, as of today, 205
recommendations remain open, some dating back to early 2008.
For example, in our 2008 evaluation of volunteer safety and
security, there are still open recommendations about training
for volunteers and staff, volunteer housing standards,
emergency preparedness, and crime reporting.
Peace Corps has made progress in addressing the agency's
safety and security issues since GAO issued its concerns in
2002. My office will continue to assist the agency in improving
the safety and security of volunteers. We have commenced a
review of the agency's implementation of guidelines and
protocols related to volunteer victims of sexual assault and
also plan to follow up on our previous work. We would also like
to express our gratitude to the survivors for their cooperation
as we conduct our review.
I believe that, as Peace Corps celebrates its 50th
anniversary, the agency has the opportunity to renew its
dedication to volunteer safety and security and ensure the
sustainability of the agency's mission for another 50 years.
Thank you for this opportunity. And I am prepared to answer
[The prepared statement of Ms. Buller follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much for your
I wanted to ask about Kate Puzey's murder. As you know, in
March 2009, Kate, a Peace Corps volunteer serving as a teacher
in Benin, Africa, was murdered. Shortly before that terrible
crime, Kate sent an e-mail to the country director identifying
her accused killer, a teacher, and as engaging in inappropriate
relationships with and sexually harassing students.
Kate requested that the e-mail remain anonymous. However,
the agency's Inspector General later found that this e-mail was
mishandled. And I have some questions about that. Can you tell
us what happened? Did the Peace Corps terminate the employment
of those responsible?
And suppose that lamentably this exact same scenario
repeated itself, a Peace Corps volunteer reported to the Peace
Corps officials about an individual who could pose a risk to
the volunteer safety and requesting anonymity obviously. How
would the Peace Corps today protect that volunteer?
And, lastly, are there any legislative measures that we can
take to strengthen safety and security in support of
prosecutions in foreign countries?
Ms. Buller. My office did conduct a review, an
administrative review, of the information flow that occurred
prior to the death of Kate Puzey. What we did find was that the
e-mail that she sent confidentially to the country director and
additionally another person was compromised, that this
information was inappropriately disclosed.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. What happened to the employment of
those responsible for the e-mail and the outing of the person
who sent that e-mail, Kate?
Ms. Buller. None of those individuals are with the Peace
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Are they no longer in the Peace
Corps because of this or for other reasons?
Ms. Buller. They are no longer in the Peace Corps because
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. They are no longer in the Peace
Corps because of this?
Ms. Buller. Yes.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Suppose that a volunteer would send
communications or would somehow communicate to a Peace Corps
official about a problem that that volunteer is incurring in
asking for anonymity. How would the Peace Corps protect that
volunteer today? What has changed?
Ms. Buller. Today there is a protocol in place or policy in
place that mandates that any allegation by a volunteer or a
trainee that is made in confidence be kept in confidence and
held in the closest discretion by Peace Corps staff receiving
that allegation. The volunteer or the trainee is also advised
that they can come to the IG and actually are encouraged to
come to the IG with these allegations since we handle
confidential allegations all the time and actually have a
statutory mandate to keep our allegations confidential.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Understanding how
difficult it is to get prosecutions in foreign countries,
before we enter into agreements to send volunteers to the
countries, is the Peace Corps being aggressive with the host
country in saying that these cases must be handled in the
serious manner that they merit?
Ms. Buller. I believe that the director was probably in the
best position to answer that question. From our perspective,
there are some things that just won't be prosecuted overseas.
It would be helpful if we had the ability to prosecute them
here. There could be a legislative change that would allow the
U.S. to have jurisdiction of some violent crimes committed
against Peace Corps volunteers.
For example, if they were considered to be employees of the
United States Government, for purposes of that type of a
prosecution, they are currently considered employees for FECA
purposes. So it would be along those similar lines.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Has the Peace Corps implemented--I know you spoke about it
in your testimony--all of your audit recommendations regarding
safety and security? If not, which ones remain open? And, what
is the most important change that the agency can make to
improve safety and security?
Ms. Buller. I want to just clarify your question, Madam
Chairman, if I can. Are we talking about the audit or the
evaluation? Either one?
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Either one. It was about the audit,
but the evaluation is good, too.
Ms. Buller. I would like to address the evaluation in
particular since those recommendations, the ones that are
currently open have been open since 2008. The recommendations
we made in the evaluation that are continuing to be open
concern the accuracy of incident reporting, volunteer incident
reporting. We would like the agency to have the country
director review those incident reports before they are
submitted to headquarters. That is still open.
We also would like the Office of Safety and Security to
provide pre-service training to volunteers and how they can
effectively respond to a violent attack in a culturally
appropriate way given the country that they are in. That has
We also would like the regional directors to establish
housing criteria and make sure that housing criteria is
implemented across the board. That remains open.
We also would like the Office of Safety and Security to
make sure that all of its staff is trained in making certain
that all of the safety and security recommendations are
There is an open recommendation concerning the Emergency
Action Plans. We made the recommendation that they be tested
yearly and in a variety of situations, not just a single
situation--that remains open--and that the staff when they are
conducting site development fill out the site locator forms
that currently the Peace Corps volunteers do on their own,
instead of having the Peace Corps volunteers fill them out. We
continually find in our country program evaluations that these
site locator forms are often not accurate. Our evaluators take
them to go locate the volunteers. And it is very difficult to
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
Mr. Berman. Thank you.
Elaborate on this evaluation of Peace Corps response to
sexual assault. What is the scope of your sexual assault
review? And what is the method by which you will incorporate
the view of survivors and currently serving volunteers?
Ms. Buller. The scope of the review, we have tried to limit
it to more recent, like the past 2 years or so, with the hopes
of being able to identify individuals who were with the Peace
Corps who are still with the Peace Corps who may have been
involved in the response to the sexual assault for the
volunteer. We are----
Mr. Berman. You are talking about the staff of the Peace
Ms. Buller. Staff. Yes, sir. Staff. Given the 5-year rule
Mr. Berman. This is about staff response?
Ms. Buller. Yes, staff response. Yes, sir. We are reaching
out to various organizations. We have reached out to First
Response and asked them to reach out to its members to allow
them to come in and speak with us about their circumstances.
We, of course, don't want to just call sexual assault victims
out of the cold and start asking them questions and make them
relive their trauma. So we are soliciting input through
organizations who have contact with those individuals.
Mr. Berman. So in this case, your evaluation isn't just
focused on your examination of what the staff tells you they
responded, but you are trying to get a base of data from the
victims about their views of how the staff responded?
Ms. Buller. Exactly, Congressman. We're trying to get their
view of how the staff responded and try to marry it up with
what we find in the records that the Peace Corps has.
Mr. Berman. Okay. In your 2010 audit, you stated that Peace
Corps didn't have an adequate process to ensure potential
volunteers are fully informed of the security risks before
being sent overseas. Do you feel that Peace Corps has
sufficiently addressed this issue that was disclosed in your
Ms. Buller. That particular recommendation remains open at
this time. We are currently working with the agency to try to
address it, but as of this time, it has not been addressed.
Mr. Berman. That is, fully disclosing the security risks of
the place where that person is going to be based before they
Ms. Buller. Yes, sir. We recommended that that be done at
staging when they bring all of the trainees into Washington or
Mr. Berman. Not in-country?
Ms. Buller. Not in-country.
Mr. Berman. And you have done audits relating to the
medical office of the Peace Corps as well as the safety and
security office. How do you think a victim's advocate logically
would fit in this structure in terms of dealing with the
medical office and the safety and security office?
Ms. Buller. I think where they placed the position
currently in Peace Corps is probably the best place for it.
They placed it directly under the Director. So that person
doesn't report to anybody but the Director and will have
communications between both the medical staff and the office
Mr. Berman. Those offices, the medical office, the safety
and security office, will have obligations to provide
information that the victims' advocate requests?
Ms. Buller. That is my understanding of how it works. Yes,
Mr. Berman. So you think they are placed right to get this
Ms. Buller. I think the person who would seek that
information, it would be required that they report directly to
the Director to have the hammer I guess is what you call it to
make people respond to them, yes.
Mr. Berman. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I yield back my 50
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Berman.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much. Thank you for your reports.
You have done a wonderful job.
Let me ask. You heard Mr. Aaron Williams, I should say, say
earlier in response to my question in 2009, there were 61
percent of those where there was an allegation made that
resulted in an arrest. Do we know what happened before, in '08
and '07, what has happened in 2010? And does your office have
any information about what happened after those arrests in
terms of convictions and people actually serving time in prison
Ms. Buller. No. My office does not have that information. I
can get the information for you from the previous years and
supply that for the record.
Mr. Smith. Okay. Is that something that you could look into
Ms. Buller. Yes, sir.
Mr. Smith. But I am talking about the conviction rates and
the incarceration and for how many years because obviously the
crime and the punishment should be commensurate with the crime,
the punishment ought to be.
Ms. Buller. Yes. That is something we could definitely look
[The information referred to follows:]
Mr. Smith. Because that will give us a better barometer, I
would suggest, respectfully, as to whether or not a country is
serious. They may give us a ton? deg. of rhetoric, but
it really does lie in whether or not these men go to prison.
Let me just ask you, if I could, about when it comes to
safety versus mission, I would argue that safety trumps
everything. Mission is important, but there is not an
acceptable risk for a Peace Corps volunteer, really.
Some people in the State Department choose hazardous
deployments. They get hazardous pay. Very often they go without
their spouse and family because of it. Are there places that
ought to be deemed off limits where there has been a pattern of
abuse in not just countries but subdivisions within those
countries where that area ought to be put off limits?
Ms. Buller. That is a very good question, Congressman. That
is really a management decision that should be made by the
agency. My office can review those decisions and make
assessments as to whether or not they have applied the criteria
that they have developed in order to make those placements, but
that is a management decision.
Mr. Smith. Is it something you might include in your
recommendations? Because it seems to me that in response to the
IG, you have provided the blueprint for the Peace Corps to act.
So perhaps you could incorporate that into your general
recommendations because it seems to me to send a women, you
might say, ``Oh, this country is fine but not that part of the
country'' and she walks right into harm's way.
Let me ask you, too. You have testified that many of your
recommendations remain enacted upon. Are there instances where
the Peace Corps has gone beyond what the IG has recommended?
Have they been proactive in areas that even your office did not
anticipate or are they reactive?
Ms. Buller. They are primarily reactive. I can't think of a
situation off the top of my head. If I do, however, I will
provide it to you for the record.
Mr. Smith. Okay. I mean, it is unfortunate. They should be
exceeding. Once you brought the attention back in the early
part of this decade, they should have been working on this
night and day to ensure that those women are in the safest
environment imaginable. And to think that year in/year out they
might, some women might, be going back to where 2 years ago
this same program director, like in Nepal, where Carol Marie
Clark, as you heard, testified that the Nepalese Peace Corps
program director was telling her and other women that in order
to get their checks, they had to have sex with him and that the
volunteer country director said that they ought to get a
thicker skin to deal with that kind of harassment and threat.
So the next question would be, what happens to people? Is
there any record of what has happened when an allegation is
made against a superior, whether it be indigenous to that
country or an American serving abroad? Are charges brought
against them? And how do we vet?
I mean, it seems to me that this program director because
he did rape her eventually, as she testified, this director
found a place where he would have an ongoing group of women
coming in, would wait for the opportunity if he couldn't coerce
them to begin with. In this case, she was partying, couldn't
stop him. And how many times did he do it before and after?
I'm sure she was not the only one that he raped. And I'm
wondering what happens to somebody like that? You know, we have
found, I would say, Madam Chair, in the area of peacekeeping
because I have held hearings on the deployment of peacekeepers
in DR Congo and elsewhere who rape 13-year-olds. And then they
find themselves on another redeployment somewhere else under
the zero tolerance policy of the Secretary General of the
United Nations. If you could speak to that, please?
Ms. Buller. There are processes in place for getting rid of
local hire staff, where they are PSCs or direct hires. I think
the better provision would be not to hire people like that. And
we have made recommendations concerning the lack of security
background checks for host country staff and contractors.
There has been, as I said in my testimony, 44 percent of
countries that we went into did not comply with that--and it
has gone up since they changed the requirements to include
So there is a real need for compliance with that particular
recommendation. And if they did comply with it, situations like
that would be prevented.
Mr. Smith. I would hope--and I hope the Peace Corps takes
this to heart--that if there is one instance of an allegation
being made, that is enough to trigger a significant
investigation so we don't wait until that woman herself is
raped or others who are in a similarly vulnerable position.
Thank you so much.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Smith.
Thank you, Ms. Buller. And we are all highly supportive of
the great mission and the work of the Peace Corps. We want to
make sure that it is a polished jewel and that we will make the
recommendations that we hope the Peace Corps will implement to
secure the safety of all of the volunteers and change the
culture from blaming the victim to supporting the victim and
holding the perpetrators of this violence accountable for their
And, with that, our committee is adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 12:35 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing RecordNotice deg.
QFRs Williams/Ros-Lehtinen deg.
QFRs Williams/Smith deg.
Connolly statement deg.
Tsongas statement deg.
ISTSS statement deg.