Washington, Sep 21 -

WASHINGTON, DC ñ Today, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) hailed the passage of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This bipartisan legislation will provide better security and protection measures for Peace Corps volunteers worldwide. The Committeeís Chairwoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Howard Berman are co-sponsors of the bill.

ìI applaud the members of the committee for supporting this important piece of legislation, and I look forward to the speedy passage of this bill in the House and Senateî, said Poe. ìNow is the time to protect Americaís Angels Abroad. The young men and women who volunteer in the Peace Corps are dedicated to taking care of others; now it is time to make sure that the U.S. takes care of them. I am hopeful that this legislation will facilitate important and immediate change in the Peace Corps to make it an even better institution.î

Over the last ten years, volunteers in the Peace Corps have suffered an average of 22 rapes and 267 assaults each year. Right now, new volunteers are not trained on sexual assault issues and are often placed in dangerous situations. The agencyís in-country post-incident response often fails to meet victimsí needs. When volunteers return to the United States, they are confronted with hostile, rather than supportive treatment. There is so much bureaucratic red-tape that some of the victims are never able to get through it all and as a result, they do not receive the long-term medical and mental health care that they need and deserve.

This legislation will amend the Peace Corps Act to require sexual assault risk-reduction and response training, the development of sexual assault protocol and guidelines, the establishment of an office of victim advocacy and the establishment of a Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

Poe serves on the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is co-founder of the Congressional Victimsí Rights Caucus. Isakson serves on the Subcommittee on African Affairs on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations