Peace Corps Volunteers React to ABC News Report On Murder and Rape

PHOTO Jill Hoxmeier was excited when she learned she had been assigned to Guyana, South America as a Peace Corps volunteer. In 2007, she was riding her bike home from work when she was dragged into the bushes and sexually assaulted
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Viewers responded to ABC News' "20/20" investigation of the murder and rape of female volunteers in the Peace Corps with an outpouring of grief and anger – but also with heartfelt defenses of the Peace Corps – on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the strongest reactions came from volunteers themselves, both those who've returned from their service around the world and those still in the field.

On the Peace Corps Facebook page, John Hand wrote that he "had a great experience in the Peace Corps and I agree, of course, that most staff and administrators are dedicated, compassionate and intelligent."

But, "None of these generalities," wrote Hand, "in my mind excuses or explains what we saw and heard on 20/20. The 'cover-up' mentality demonstrated there is shocking to me."

ABC News reported on the murder of Kate Puzey, whose body was found in Benin in 2009 shortly after she urged her country director to dismiss a Peace Corps employee that she knew, according to her family and friends, had raped students at the school where she taught. The Peace Corps employee who was dismissed after Puzey's complaint, Constant Bio, is being held as the prime suspect in her murder but maintains his innocence.

Puzey's family told ABC News they felt the Peace Corps had helped cause her death because her name was leaked in connection with the complaint about Bio. Puzey's parents also said the Peace Corps did not help them find out more about what happened to their daughter in the months after her death.

CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT KATE PUZEY and WATCH THE 20/20 REPORT BY CLICKING THE FOLLOWING: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3

As part of the report, Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross also talked to a half dozen female volunteers who said that after they were sexually assaulted the Peace Corps response was incompetent and insensitive.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH AN EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH THE WOMEN and CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SLIDESHOW ABOUT THE WOMEN

Viewers said they were "heartbroken" and expressed "disgust" and blasted the Peace Corps "terrible" response to the murder and rape of its volunteers. Via Twitter, Phyllie417 said the report " breaks down every perception I had about the peace corps," while TipMose complained that while the Peace Corps was promoting safety and justice around the world it wasn't doing the same for its own volunteers. Others said the Peace Corps had made matters worse with its insensitivity.

"Does the Peace Corps value its reputation over its volunteers?" asked Linda Lambeck on the Peace Corps Facebook page.

"You failed those women and their families," wrote Eunice Park on Facebook. "You [have] coldly turned your backs on those who were raped or murdered."

Peace Corps Veterans: Story 'Pained Us Deeply'

The most poignant responses came from Peace Corps veterans trying to square Kate Puzey's story, and the stories of sexual assault, with their own love for the organization.

Peace Corps Connect, an organization for returned Peace Corps Volunteers, took to Twitter to say the report had "pained us deeply" and call the women who spoke about their experiences on "20/20", and the volunteers who've lost their lives in service "heroes helping not just our country, but [the] world."

Sara Dougherty tweeted that she hoped "peacecorps will learn from 2020 ... Need to embrace a culture of openness & honesty & know when to say sry."

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