Peace Corps volunteers speak up about sexual assault

The Peace Corps has a terrible history with sexual assault. Today Congress is holding a hearing on violence, including sexual assault, in the Peace Corps. Brave volunteers are coming forward to share their stories.

Speaking up about sexual assault is always a difficult act. These survivors are also speaking about an organization they clearly believe in. It’s too easy to fall into the trope that sexual violence is something that happens in the countries where Peace Corps volunteers go, instead of everywhere, including the US. There is a push for prosecution included in organizing around this issue – I don’t know much on this topic outside the US, but I’m sure prosecuting sexual assault on Americans in international contexts brings added complications to an already difficult issue for those of us concerned both about sexual violence and the violence of criminal justice systems. There’s also the paternalistic trap of saying well, it’s dangerous for women so they shouldn’t be in the Peace Corps.

A lot of the focus, though, is on the lack of support and culture of victim blaming within the Peace Corps.

In recent months, Ms. Frazee, 28, has collected more than two dozen affidavits from other women, who have shared stories that Mr. Williams called “tragic.”

In interviews and documents, they paint a picture of what many call a “blame the victim” culture at the Peace Corps.

Jessica Gregg, who was drugged and sexually assaulted in 2007 in Mozambique, said a Peace Corps medical officer “made me write in my testimony that I was intoxicated” and suggested that “I willingly had sex with this guy.” She and a number of other women complained that a training video the Peace Corps uses places too much emphasis on the role of alcohol in sexual assaults

Survivors are calling for greater support, for advocates, and of course for the end of this bullshit victim blaming.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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