Kate Puzey Law Would Protect Whistleblowers, Victims of Sex Assault

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Puzey Family Believes Peace Corps Failed to Protect Kate

The Puzey family believes that the Peace Corps failed to protect Kate, and then kept them in the dark about what had happened.

"It hurts us very deeply," said Kate's father, Harry Puzey, in an interview for "20/20."

"We wouldn't be sitting here, I think, if they had been more transparent with us, more honest with us," added Lois Puzey.

WATCH home video of Kate Puzey in Benin

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the Peace Corps deputy director, refused to say whether the agency bore any responsibility for Kate Puzey's death, citing the ongoing criminal investigation in Benin. "I cannot say because the investigation is not complete," she told ABC News.

Critics of the Peace Corps say the agency has a culture that tries to downplay violent incidents overseas and make victims feel responsible for their own misfortunes. Women who were sexually assaulted while serving as Peace Corps volunteers told ABC News that the treatment they received after they were attacked was sometimes worse than the assaults themselves, and that the agency seemed ill-equipped to deal with victims.

WATCH an interview with victims of sexual assault.

Casey Frazee, who was assaulted while serving in South Africa, formed a group called First Response Action to pressure the Peace Corps into reforming its treatment of victims and updating its sexual assault prevention program.

Frazee hailed the Kate Puzey bill introduced Thursday as a breakthrough, and noted that the Peace Corps had worked with First Response Action and members of Congress on reform. "First Response Action is thrilled to see legislation come to fruition that supports Peace Corps Volunteers who report or experience a crime, whether as a victim or a whistleblower," said Frazee. "We are thankful to Congressman Poe and Senator Isakson for working closely with us and Peace Corps to generate this legislation." Cosponsors of the bill include Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), and Reps. Howard Berman and Sam Farr, both California Democrats.

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In a statement Thursday, Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams said the "safety and security of our volunteers is Peace Corps' top priority."

"The Peace Corps welcomes the work of Congress on this important issue," said Williams, "and looks forward to continuing our joint efforts to improve our response to sexual assault and other crimes."

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