Family of Murdered Peace Corps Volunteer Mounts Candlelight Vigil On Capitol Steps


A Peace Corps official said that the formal coded policy was ready to be entered into the manual on January 10, and that the timing was not linked in any way to the 20/20 broadcast. "These processes take time to move through various offices and the policy review board. Motions were set in place long before 20/20," the Peace Corps official said.

As part of the "20/20" report, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross also interviewed six former Peace Corps volunteers who were raped or sexually assaulted while serving as volunteers. Five of the six were extremely unhappy with how Peace Corps treated them, saying they even felt blamed by the organization for "bringing on" the attacks.

In the wake of ABC News' report, the House Foreign Affairs committee scheduled hearings on the issue of how Peace Corps handles victims of sexual assault and rape.

The hearings are scheduled for March 30 and 31.

In the weeks following the "20/20" report, Peace Corps posted two documents on its website regarding the organization's response to sexual assault.

The first was a "Commitment" to volunteer victims of sexual assault pledging compassion, legal support, and possibilities for the victim to continue his or her volunteer service. Peace Corps obtained input on the document in December 2010 from members of the volunteer sexual assault survivor support group First Response Action, whose founder Casey Frazee was interviewed in the "20/20" report.

"Peace Corps is committed to providing a compassionate and supportive response to all Volunteers who have been sexually assaulted," reads the "Commitment." The document will be added to the Volunteer Handbook next year.

"Peace Corps is now listening to returned volunteers, especially after the '20/20' report, and acknowledging that this is an issue," said Frazee. "It's definitely a step in the right direction."

Jessica Smochek, who was interviewed by ABC News "20/20" about how she was gang-raped as a volunteer in Bangladesh, met with Peace Corps officials in December along with Frazee. Smochek said she was happy that the organization was working on drafting the "Commitment" to victims of sexual assault. She said she is disappointed, however, at the vagueness of the language of the pledges. She said she is also disappointed that Peace Corps did not reach out to experts in the field of trauma and treatment of sexual assault victims before drafting the Commitment document. A spokesperson for the Peace Corps says the organization did, in fact, consult such experts.

The second document is a fact sheet on sexual assault in the Peace Corps that cites figures showing a decline in rapes since 1997 and improvements to the Peace Corps' Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.

The fact sheet was put together after "20/20" aired because Peace Corps felt it was unfair to lump rape and "other sexual assault"--kissing, groping etc-- in the same group of numbers. ABC News reported over 1000 rapes and sexual assaults in the last decade. Peace Corps said it wants to make the distinction between rapes and minor sexual assaults and "to correct misperceptions" created by "20/20".

"'20/20's reporting did not fully reflect our commitment to the health, safety and support of our volunteers, and we wanted to provide additional information to our community,"a Peace Corps official told ABC News.

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