September 4, 2011

The Post’s coverage of sexually assaulted Peace Corps volunteers’ pursuit of compassion, care and justice should be lauded for balance and sensitivity.

Resistance to reform by the Peace Corps and its supporters — illustrated by the Aug. 27 Free for All letter by Matt Losak of the Peace Corps Fund — demonstrates a profound ignorance of two decades of research on rape and sexual assault. Sadly, a woman’s risk of being raped escalates when she enters the Peace Corps. In 2009 alone, the risk of being raped as a Peace Corps volunteer was five times that for women of comparable age in the United States. I myself was a victim of rape while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1991 to 1992.

The U.S. criminal justice system has changed radically over the past decade to provide compassionate care and justice for rape victims. Women who report rapes are typically assigned a victim’s advocate through every step of the judicial process, and psychological counseling and medical care are often provided without cost. These changes extend to the Defense Department and even the U.S. prison system. Unfortunately, the Peace Corps continues to lag behind in best practices, and too many of its supporters deny and minimize the problem of rape and sexual assault among volunteers.

Celebration of the Peace Corps’ legacy must not come at the cost of ignoring the endemic mistreatment of victims of rape, sexual assault and crime more broadly

Karestan Koenen, New York