Today, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will introduce the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 in the House and Senate. This bipartisan legislation will provide better security and protection measures for Peace Corps volunteers. Both the Chairwoman (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) and ranking member (Rep. Howard Berman) of the House Foreign Relations Committee are co-sponsors of the bill.

The time has come to stand up and protect Americas angels abroad, said Poe.  Peace Corps volunteers are ambassadors of the United States who spend their lives helping others who are less fortunate all over the world. These precious people are dedicated to taking care of others; now it is time to make sure that they are taken care of. The United States must act now to protect these young volunteers and respond to the needs of victims of violent crime no matter where they are in the world. I am hopeful that this legislation will facilitate important and immediate changes in the Peace Corps to make it an even better institution.

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 agencys in-country post-incident response often fails to meet victims 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 victim advocates and the establishment of a Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

Co-sponsors of the House bill include: Rep. Howard Berman (CA-28); Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18);  Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46); Rep. Jim Costa (CA-20); Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA-05); Rep. Sam Farr (CA-17); Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11); Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (AS) Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25); Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-17); Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-25); Rep. Michael E. Capuano (MA-08) and Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-12).

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