ABC News Investigations of the Year: Peace Corps


Impact: Less than two weeks after the initial "20/20" broadcast in January, Congress began to look into the Peace Corps' handling of assault victims and whistleblowers. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, called for a Congressional investigation, telling ABC News he was "furious and sad" after watching the report.

A May 11 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs committee featured emotional testimony by Dr. Koenen and other women brought forward by the ABC News investigation, as well as Lois Puzey, who pleaded for the Peace Corps to do more to protect its volunteers. Aaron Williams, the director of the Peace Corps, who had refused to appear in the January "20/20" report, also testified at the hearing, where he promised to ditch the Peace Corps' controversial training tape immediately, and correct other aspects of the organization's treatment of volunteers.

"Rest assured, this type of thing, blaming the victim, will not continue in the Peace Corps of today," Williams said in his testimony.

In June, Rep. Poe and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act to the House and Senate. The bill was designed to require the agency to improve the training of volunteers to reduce sexual assault risk, to protect whistleblowers, and to require the Peace Corps to hire victims' advocates for each region the agency serves. The bill passed both the House and the Senate without a single dissenting vote, and was signed into law by President Obama on Nov. 21.

"May this new law honor the life of the remarkable young woman, Kate Puzey, as it ensures that the courageous young men and women who serve in the Peace Corps have the protections they rightly deserve," Sen. Isakson said.

For the Kate Puzey family, the bill's passage represented a "a real closure and healing," said Lois Puzey.

"We're so gratified, and actually amazed, that it's come to fruition, that this law has passed, and that other volunteers will be able to hopefully serve safely," she told ABC News. "And if something God forbid happens, that they will have the support that they need, which is what our family and what the rape survivors did not get."

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