U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement today expressing support for the recent agreement entered into by the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and the Director of the Peace Corps. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was required by Section 7 of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-57), and outlines the duties and obligations of both the Peace Corps and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security with regard to the protection of Peace Corps volunteers serving in foreign countries. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"I am very pleased that, as a result of the important Peace Corps volunteer protection legislation which passed our Committee last year, there is now an agreement in place which spells out responsibilities for keeping our volunteers safe while they serve overseas.
"Last year, the Committee received harrowing testimony which exposed the Peace Corps' woefully inadequate standards and procedures for keeping volunteers safe, and assisting them when they fall victim to crimes. The hearing exposed a devastating "blame the victim' culture at the Peace Corps, where it was common practice to blame and re-victimize volunteers who had been raped or sexually assaulted during their time of service.
"While this agreement is a positive step forward, we realize that the problems are not yet solved. The Committee continues to receive reports suggesting that further Peace Corps reforms are needed.
"New policies and procedures may look good on paper but are useless if they are not fully implemented by the Peace Corps in the field. Full compliance with the remaining provisions of this law is necessary to ensure that proper safeguards are in place and that volunteer safety and security is a top priority.
"It is imperative that the Peace Corps not backslide on its responsibility to protect its volunteers."