• U.S.

Peace Corps Report Says 1 in 5 Volunteers Are Sexually Assaulted

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

Nearly one in five of the nearly 7,000 American Peace Corps volunteers serving around the world is sexually assaulted during their service, according to an internal agency report.

The report, first reported by CBS News, shows that nearly half of Peace Corps victims don’t report their assaults in service countries. Volunteers felt criticized and threatened about discussing their attacks, according to CBS, and survivors often said they are blamed or punished.

According to the organization, the data is preliminary and based on a six month reporting period. Another report, looking at the entirety of Peace Corps volunteers that served in 2014, shows that 5.37 sexual assaults were reported for every 100 female volunteers, the organization said.

The latest report does contain some chilling stories: in one instance, a 23-year-old woman was threatened in a remote Dominican Republic town by two men with machetes, but escaped. When she reported the attack to Peace Corps, she was told she was going home.

“They also told me that my attack had occurred because I had been walking in my site and that as a volunteer, it was my job to have been more proactive to prevent it from happening,” the woman, Danae Smith said.

Peace Corps personnel were accused of sexual assault, but resigned before facing administrative action and later allowed to reapply to the agency, according to the report.

A spokesperson at the Peace Corps told TIME that the agency does not have a comprehensive final report that incorporates a full year’s worth of data. But according to preliminary findings, the spokesperson said, Peace Corps volunteers report sexual assaults at levels similar to the general population.

The spokesperson added that of the 19% of Peace Corps volunteers who participated in the report and said they were sexually assaulted, with 85% of those non-aggravated sexual assaults like touching and groping, and 10% were rapes.

Accusations that the Peace Corps blames the victims of sexual assault go back years, with a widespread attempt at reform in 2011 including a law to protect volunteers and a promise of change by the government agency’s director.


-Additional reporting by Melissa Chan

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