October 27, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Creating fear by El Salvador RPCV Anna

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By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-165-54.balt.east.verizon.net - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 3:28 am: Edit Post

Creating fear by El Salvador RPCV Anna

Creating fear by El Salvador RPCV Anna

I am appalled at the false and misleading information in the series of articles on the security of the Peace Corps by Russell Carollo of the Dayton Daily News. I ask readers to please take the time to learn more before buying into the culture of fear and isolationism that this article is bound to create. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador for two years, (at the time of the assault against the women there), and in Argentina, and I have been involved in training volunteers in Paraguay for the last two years. I have had first hand information about those cases cited by Carollo and there are a number of things that he failed to mention or misrepresented. Nowhere does he mention how much work has gone into improving safety and health conditions for volunteers over the last few years. He does not mention that more than half of the assault cases involved behavior that went explicitly against Peace Corps warnings (not to travel to unsafe areas, not to travel at night, not to co-habitate with opposite sex, not to drink, as examples). He does not discuss the decline in sexual assault in Peace Corps countries over the last five years: Major sexual assault is down by 30% since 1997 and rape decreased by 40% since then. There were no homicides against Volunteers during 2002, and in the Peace Corps’ 42-year history there have been only 20 homicides among 170,000 Volunteers. He fails to mention the 2002 Volunteer Survey sent to all Peace Corps Volunteers to collect their feedback on safety issues, a survey in which 97% of all respondents reported that they feel “very safe” to “adequately safe" where they live and work, and a great majority felt safe traveling. The Peace Corps website provides detailed information about volunteer safety. Health and safety risks are an inherent part of Volunteer service (and life, I might add). I, like any volunteer who went through the three month training that is required, was aware of those risks and accepted them when I undertook a Peace Corps commitment. I also made the cultural and behavioral changes that were necessary to help reduce my risk and improve my volunteer service. I have felt as safe, if not safer, during Peace Corps and other work overseas than I have in cities in the US. I would not want the mission of Peace Corps to be jeopardized by fear tactics. No volunteer can do their job well if it means living in a US compound and assigned government “protectors.” No one who works for the state or federal government in the US would blame the government for not protecting them if they were assaulted while out at night in Washington DC or Austin. For comparative purposes, the violent crime rate of Washington DC is approximately what it is for Peace Corps volunteers, and yet half a million people live there and others continue to move there. The Peace Corps is an incredible opportunity to learn and change on all sides, and shame on any paper for buying into fear tactics without investigation. At the same time, I would like to extend my sympathy and sorrow to the people in the cases mentioned. While taking a risk is inherent, it is always terrible when something does happen, whether it happens to one person or a thousand. I do take offense at what I consider “using” those tragedies to create fear that is uninformed and unjustified among the general public and potential volunteers.

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Story Source: Dayton Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Investigative Journalism; COS - El Salvador



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