This week, Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) joined Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) in introducing H.R. 2337, the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011. This bipartisan legislation is in response to recent reports highlighting the need for the Peace Corps to improve its response to Volunteers who are the victims of violent crimes, risk reduction training, and confidentiality practices. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) are introducing the companion bill in the Senate.
"I strongly support the Peace Corps, which continues to do critical work in developing countries around the world 50 years after its founding by President John F. Kennedy," said Congressman Berman. "However, I am deeply troubled by recent reports that the Peace Corps provided inadequate support for Volunteers that were the victims of sexual assault and mishandled confidential information that contributed to the death of a volunteer.
"Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams is taking aggressive action to remedy these problems, and I am very encouraged by the progress he has made," Congressman Berman continued. "This legislation will complement and reinforce his efforts to ensure that all Peace Corps Volunteers and their families have the support they need."
The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 requires the Peace Corps to follow best practices in responding to sexual assaults, creates an additional three victim advocates to ensure that victims of violent crimes receive necessary services, sets up an Advisory Council to review Peace Corps' sexual assault policy and implementation, and establishes new confidentiality requirements.
Kate Puzey, for whom this legislation is named, was a Peace Corps Volunteer from Georgia who taught English in the small town of Badjoude, Benin. During her service, Kate was brutally murdered, and in her memory, the Puzey family has spearheaded the effort for Peace Corps reform.