Comments to this Article by RPCVs

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: October 26, 2003: Dayton Daily News reports on Peace Corps Safety and Security: What RPCVs Say about this series: October 26, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Are Rapes and Assaults on the increase in the Peace Corps?: Comments to this Article by RPCVs
Read the series on Safety and Security here

Leave your comments on the series below.

Read comments by RPCVs here, here, here and here.

By Paula Stiles ( - on Sunday, October 26, 2003 - 3:54 pm: Edit Post

There is a very good article waiting to be written about Peace Corps safety. It's still waiting because this one isn't it. And I doubt any other article in this series will be any good, either.

What bothered me was not the allegation that Peace Corps Admins in some countries are indifferent to PCV safety. That's a "well, duh" for me, since my stage's first fish APCD was incredibly bad about addressing our safety issues. Our second one was much better. Then again, he was actually qualified for the job. That helps.

Nor was I terribly fussed by the allegation that Peace Corps likes to keep this stuff quiet. Again, that's a "well, duh" and, while it's also irritating, I can see where Peace Corps is coming from. No group likes bad publicity, after all. No, what annoyed me was the implication that because *some* countries have problems with safety, Peace Corps should close its doors. And not only did this guy advocate ending Peace Corps now, he made this look like a problem that Peace Corps has always had. He questioned whether Peace Corps should ever have existed, which I think is just ridiculous.

I especially liked the continual harping on the idea that if only we didn't have so many 20-something white women in the Peace Corps, PCV safety would be so much better. I heard this attitude a lot from male PCVs when I was in Peace Corps. Never mind that of the incidents mentioned in the article, the PCV who got beaten to death was a guy, or that several of the women who were raped were with male PCVs at the time. The coverage of the rapes was downright gloating. I can't imagine that the women he interviewed (and note that some of them seem to have refused to talk to him) were best pleased with how they came across in this article. Nor do I think that any Ukrainian-Americans will be very happy with the implication (unconfirmed) that they have a lot of PCV-buggerers in their home country. This guy's editor really should have reined him in on that stuff.

The article overall was disorganised, almost as bad as the recent Jane piece. I noticed that the Guatemalan incident was spread disjointedly throughout the entire article, giving it a lot of emphasis over the less juicy stuff. I think I'll refrain from getting too deep into the incidents themselves, but I did notice that we got no figures that aren't out there already and that there was very little context about the incidents themselves, except that several of the incidents occurred at night, which didn't surprise me. And I thought the insistence (with no proof) that any place in America is safer than most Peace Corps countries was disingenuous, to say the very least. One thing that shocked me upon my return to the US was the realisation that America is, in fact, a very unsafe place to live in.

I don't think this series will do Peace Corps any lasting harm (much worse has been published in the past 42 years), but it disturbs me to think that this guy might win an award over it. I don't think he should be getting paid to write this crap, let alone win any awards over it.

Paula Stiles
Cameroon, '91-'94

By Kristy Lord ( - on Sunday, October 26, 2003 - 4:40 pm: Edit Post

Paula, You are doing what many people do "blaming the victim". I am fed up with people like you commenting on something you know nothing about. Your comments on "how the women he interview came across in this article" disgusts me! Russell Carollo has effectively documented the experiences of many that have been raped, killed, attacked, abducted and made to feel that they "deserved it".

I hear a very judgemental tone in your commentary and you should really keep your mouth shut unless you have experienced suffering a traumatic event and had little to no support from an agency you served.

He is not saying PC should close it's doors. He is saying that PC is responsible for the safety of it's volunteers. Stop blaming the victim. It is the year 2003 and no one ever deserves to have their life threatened.

This "crap" you refer to has given some of us the closest thing to justice we will ever have!

Maybe you could read the article again carefully before you make such ignorant comments.

By ( - on Sunday, October 26, 2003 - 6:08 pm: Edit Post

Amen Kristy,

Thank you.

I don't like the fact that he does not like Peace Corps, but the fact that he bringing these very important issues to the forefront is vital for the victims.

Its time for a Peace Corps to repair the cover up and get facilitated health care and jobs for these former Peace Corps folks.

If you compare 250 plus million people in the US and the number that have joined Peace Corps, the statistics don't multiply out. Statistics should be the last thing we are looking at in these articles.

Have you ever thought to yourself, if Peace Corps had properly placed volunteers, funded them correctly,treated former volunteers concerns correctly that we would have so many casualities and injuries. When you avoid issues like this nature catches up in strange ways.


By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) ( - on Sunday, October 26, 2003 - 6:35 pm: Edit Post

I am sicken and angry to know that anyone had to endure such brutality, both physical and psychological. I believe every word. I stand in awe of the courage it took to survive such violence.

Last August, in response to Senator Coleman's call for "accountability" in the Peace Corps, I wrote a letter to him at his Minnesota office. I refered him to so he could understand the health and safety problems volunteers were reporting. As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on the Peace Corps, I had assumed he would be concerned. I never even received the courtesy of a form letter.

I copied my Congressional delegation and Senator Edward Kennedy. Kennedy did reply and said, in part:
"I agree with you that the problems that Peace Corps volunteers are currently experiencing must be resolved in order to preserve this important program. I look forward to supporting Senator Coleman in his efforts to improve the program..."

Now, where is Coleman?

And, Daniel, Thank you. You were absolutely right.

By hmmm ( - on Monday, October 27, 2003 - 12:25 am: Edit Post

Yes. Thank you Daniel. And thank you Kristy.
Paula, are you being paid by Peace Corps to appear so blind to reality? Where do you get off?
And by the way, Carollo doesn't need any awards...he's already got a Pulitzer.
But just to clarify, doing 20 months of research that has never been done before in order to protect people that are putting their lives at risk to help others is, in your opinion, not valuable?
Studity is especially irritating when, like yours, its harmful and insulting to those who have been hurt...

By Dr Koenig ( - on Monday, October 27, 2003 - 5:17 pm: Edit Post

The crap you read was fact. People were hurt, abused, raped and killed. I know one of the 20 something ladies personally. She happens to be a very dear friend of mine. You are obviously a heartless woman if you have no compassion for others who were violated. Your judgement day will come, everyone's does. You made mention of being in the peace corps. That must have been in the 1950's. That being the case you should go back into your time capsule.
The entire world is unsafe, and we all need clear eyes in the back of our heads. However, having ignorant people such as yourself in the world does not help matters any.
I suggest that you find something better to do than disrespect a fine journalist. Maybe find some peace within yourself would be a good place to start.
Jennifer Koenig

By john edelson ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 7:28 am: Edit Post


This is a serious topic, worthy of serious attention and debate. Lets not demean the topic or ourselves by attacking each other.

The journalism is valid and interesting: documenting and highlighting these issues is appropriate and his article is, as journalism goes, high quality. Its also far from scientific objective research and certainly has a sensational quality. But its a newspaper. Like my kids have taught me to say, "duh". Or as we used to say, "no s-, sherlock".

My stage (ie training - 1980 - Cameroon) addressed safety. I seem to remember them explaining that the number one cause of injury and death consistently across Peace Corps history was cars and motorcycles. It was drilled into us to drive carefully (we had 125 motorcycles), not drink and drive, and wear your helmut. To some degree, this happened. I would be interested to know if the accident rate for volunteers is different than for comparable Americans Stateside. In both cases, I'm sure the stats show a terrible rate of accident.

I think violence (including rape) was discussed as the second most likely health problem. They tried to use posting and residences and training as the major tools in minimizing the danger. We did not put new volunteers in major cities since they were considered far more dangerous than the countryside. And in the countryside, volunteers would be housed with families and with other volunteers in areas that were dangerous. Questions of how to behave and how to dress were often discussed in stage in the context of both safety and acceptance. I remember that one issue is that certain areas were considered more risky for the woman but American law forbade gender-based decisions that lacked a real foundation so the PC administration (and I was involved in postings my second year so I remember it well) could not admit that we would not put woman in certain places. I remember being surprised that we were so sensitive to a seemingly distant American law when issues like common sense and safety were pulling in the other direction. But then, nobody likes to have legal complaints against them. Safety was much discussed in our stage.

Bottom line: woman peace corps volunteers were raped in Cameroon when I was there. These situations could maybe have been avoided if the woman had behaved differently. Maybe not. But, part of the solution going forward has to be ongoing training of the volunteers including exposing them to real statistics of the danger. I also remember hearing that local woman were raped at a far higher rate than American woman.
Another change that I would advocate in retrospect is for the local PC administration to be more assertive in decision-making about what is safe and what is not. At some point, some PCVs might get angry with PC for pulling them out of situations which they felt were safe. Or they might take legal action against PC for not "giving woman equal opportunities". I would prefer that they took the criticism and legal hit than ran risks which in retrospect, were too high just to placate the volunteers. This means not staffing or withdrawing volunteers from dangerous areas. Of course, I now speak from the perspective of being a parent where I rate safety far higher than I did as young volunteer.

I think Peace Corps should measure and manage the risks of violence against Americans. A cover-up on such an issue would be absurd and it sounds like PC has acted absurdly. At the end of the day, sensational journalists feed on the fact that agencies try to hide their dirty laundry. Fact is, Peace Corps, like many worthwhile efforts, has signficant risks which should be measured, managed, and admitted. In some areas and countries, the risks are too high and Peace Corps should go elsewhere. This only becomes dirty laundry when its not discussed openly and accurately by the Agency.

the complaints about lack of PC aggressive follow-up on perpetuators of the crimes seems silly to me. Peace Corps does not have the clout, the financing, or the will to spend its time trying to impact foreign countries' legal justice systems. If they have a violent society and we go there, we will undergo risks similiar to their own citizens. And "justice" will mostly be pursued as lackadasically for us as for them. This is also the reaction of most Americans dealing with most cities own legal system. Very sad. Very true.

By Debbie Lowe ( on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 11:16 am: Edit Post

Hi - I was a "Nut"rition volunteer in Niger from 1979-1981. Frankly, I was much safer from unwanted male attention there than I was in the United States in my 20's. However, I felt vulnerable as a lone volunteer in my village. The Niamey PC staff was somewhat judgemental about the seemingly many female volunteers in the bush who got pregnant. Yet at my post, the educated Nigerienne women were very hostile to me and the men, (of course) were very welcoming. I wrote to my APCD who was Nigerien and he was able to help me.

At the end of my posting, I did write to the head office that I recommended sending at least two volunteers to a village. I don't know if they do.

I think that men and women are vulnerable. For one thing, the national government is happy to have PCV's but the local people are not even asked. It would have helped me to have more cultural training and information about how to deal with unwelcoming coworkers and people. I ended up loving my PC experience and I learned so much about dealing with people. I'm just not sure if my village benefitted at all from my learning experience.

Debbie Lowe, Niger, 1979-81.

P.S. I hope they did pull out of Guatamala after those episodes. Statistically, maybe there weren't many assaults but a couple is two too many and there are many countries who need volunteers and who can provide a safer place.

By Timothy C. Swanson ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 12:11 pm: Edit Post

Volunteer safety is a serious issue and this journalistic critique is beneficial, whatever your quibles may be with some of the reporters' points. It seems like the culture of the Peace Corps inherently tends to neglect safety, particularly as it relates to crime. Perhaps one reason is because if we admit that crime is a serious problem, then our common tacit (and sometimes not so tacit) assumption that our neighbors love and protect us just because we are PCV's may be irrelevant or just plain wrong.

In my opinion, Peace Corps in the Philippines in the late 1980's made too much of the protection we would receive from our neighbors. I strongly suspect this failing was not limited to that time and place. This attitude certainly did not help much with sexual harrasment, nor was it a sufficient force to protect us from ill-intentioned people with guns.

Peace Corps has tried to do the right thing for victims in at least some cases, although there has not been a great deal of institutional capapcity to help victims. Maybe there is more now and maybe the Office of Volunteer Safety has more than one FTE.

We should not blame Peace Corps too much. It has been a wonderful oppotunity for most of us. We should place the blame mostly on those who chose to hurt us. They were the ones who chose to commit the crime and they are the ones who must, one way or another, face the consequences for what they did.

By Matt Berinbaum ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 2:02 pm: Edit Post

Hello! I'm a recent RPCV from the Republic of Kazakhstan. Anyone who served in Kazakhstan knows that the administration of that program has gone through a tremendous transition over the past ten years. Even during my two years of service the program changed with the events of 9/11 and a new country director who took safety and security issues very seriously.

This is a very tricky subject to discuss. One that requires honesty on the part of all those involved. The article that was written is indeed very sensational. Yes, volunteer assaults do happen. Yes, they are horrendous to fathom. Yes, they can, and do have, a destructive impact on their victims, and worst of all volunteers are killed during service. What I don't like about the article written by Mr.Carollo and Ms. Hopgood is that it doesn't seem to balance the actuality of violence perpetrated against PC volunteers with the potential for that same violence to occur at home. It seems to me that if we took a similar sample of 7,500 people across the U.S. over a similar period of time we would find a similar trend. It is my hunch that we are no more safer in the U.S. than we are overseas, in fact some of us may actualy be safer while serving.

Why is this important to me? The truth is the world is a dangerous place. Not just the world outside our borders, but inside as well. My fear is that some, or many, will consider the "danger" of serving in the Peace Corps of greater importance than the enrichment of the individual lives and communities touched by RPCVs. Here is something else that all RPCVs can acknowledge and once again I'll remind the reader that being truthful and open is important. Although no one deserves to be raped or physically assaulted, often the volunteer is partially responsible for putting himself or herself in a situation that raises the potentiality for something like that to take place.

Controversial? - Perhaps - But consider this. I was the co-author of a Safety and Security manual during my service. The manual provided a very good synopsis of the dangers in our country and strategies for improving your safety. It discussed events that had occurred with first-hand written accounts from the experts, other volunteers in the field. What they did wrong and what they would do in the future. Great manual. Its only flaw was that it couldn't make its owner read it. Many of my friends told me that they never picked the thing up, or that they knew what it would say..."Don't drink to much." In our country of service volunteers drank. Some of us drank a lot. In the countries of the former Soviet Union drinking vodka is a part of the culture. Not drinking at community events is a difficult thing to do, again as any RPCV from that part of the world will tell you. Could reading the manual have protected volunteers from all dangers? - Of course not - I believe it is important, however, that we acknowledge that our own behavior can at times put us in a greater state of risk and that it is easier when all is said and done to blame the Peace Corps for not protecting us, our friends, our children, rather than acknowledge our own fault. Many other volunteers that I served with acknowledged that some of their behavior had been stupid, that they had opened themselves up to risk because they had been drinking and then did something that they knew they shouldn’t have. For the record, the Peace Corps makes it very public to its trainees that alcohol is the number one contributing factor to crimes against volunteers world wide.

On December 9th, 2001 my sitemate and I were traveling by bus from one town to another to buy some train tickets. There was a visibly drunk man on the bus who was assaulting another woman on the bus. My sitemate and I “made a decision” to intervene in the situation. We broke up the fight only to find that the man had one more trick up his sleeve. Actually, the trick was in a holster on his belt in the form of a pistol, which he drew and stuffed in our faces, cocking the hammer, leaving us feeling like the end was near. Fortunately for us, something stopped the man from following through with his actions.

A horrible event for us? - Absolutely - I still see that gun in my face. The fault of the Peace Corps for placing us in a city that was considered by most relevant international agencies to be the epicenter of the Central Asian AIDS epidemic, with all the crime statistics that go with that title? Absolutely not. The Peace Corps gives Americans the opportunity to go and work in the real world with real people. Unfortunately really bad things can happen in that capacity. Should the organization discuss these issues with the public? Anyone going into the Peace Corps should be aware of the fact that the world is a dangerous place and that in many cases you will be on your own to provide for your own security. Maybe if trainees are made more aware of this before going they will take their own security more seriously. There are other issues associated with this discussion, for example the vital issues of post service care. Who is entitled to what? But that is a different discussion altogether.

By Woody Grant ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 4:12 pm: Edit Post

Hi Everybody,
My wife and I were volunteers in Liberia(1970-75). Our 4th year a young female volunteer, assigned to a Bush village was hacked to death by a Liberian male because she refused to give him another loan. Unfortunately she had developed a relationship that was casual from her perspective but far more intimate from his view. I do believe that the lack of cultural competence is a disarming circumstance volunteers are constrained to experience(particularly for females). More indepth orientation to the cultural nuances of the host country and its' people is a necessary operation to add to the preparation already in place. Cultural perspectives have yet to be an intricate part of education in America, and it continues to cost us...the it I refer to is IGNORANCE.

By Scott Foust (fousts) ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 4:39 pm: Edit Post

By Scott Foust (fousts) ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 4:41 pm: Edit Post

Cudos to John above, let's leave the name-calling to sensation-seeking journalists. This incredibly important topic deserves serious debate.

To Kristy (and the other victims), my prayers go out to you. My most sincere wish is that you've found a way to rebuild your life after enduring events that I can't even imagine.

While certainly there has to be an element of individual responsibility that goes into Volunteer safety, I'm not here to "blame the victims".

But then, here's the rub ... here's my question: Who do we blame? Who should be held accountable?

One posting suggests the perpetrators should receive the blame. Of course that is true. But, equally certain, that doesn't seem to go far enough.

The article keeps blaming the "Peace Corps". It's Peace Corps fault. Like Peace Corps is some mythical beast to be slain.

So, who then? Who should be held responsible?

Peace Corps is simply a bureacracy made up of individuals, who there is responsible? Gaddi? or his soon-to-be successor? The rest of the bureaucrats in DC? Like some government bureacracy in Washington DC could put in place policies that would keep volunteers safe in every corner of the globe from the mountains of the Andes to the jungles and deserts of Africa to the frozen corners of the former Soviet Union?!?!?!? Sure that would work. Congress? yea, they've got a stellar track record in solving problems.

Here's my answer - who I'd propose be held accountable: PC country staff. It starts with getting the right people into these positions - an area i believe PC probably needs help. And then making sure that their reward system reflects adequate emphasis on volunteer saftey. The Country Staff is on the ground, should have the local knowledge and provide the drive. The system should roll right up from APCDs and Country Directors through the regional directors etc.

Any thoughts?

By Rebekah Robertson ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 4:48 pm: Edit Post

I was a female PCV in Mozambique. When the time came to choose a site, I chose based on where I would have a site mate. I was very concerned about putting myself in danger (i.e.: being raped, mugged, etc.) and thought it would be better to be in a location where I would be living with another PCV.

What I took away from this article and what I believe should be standard Peace Corps policy is that PCVs should be doubled up wherever they are. This obviously will not always prevent sexual assult, as we read about the group of volunteers who were raped at gunpoint, but it may cut down on the sexual assults and other deaths of PCVs.

Unfortunately many PCVs worry about something happening to them on a daily basis since they stick out. I could commisserate with the volunteer who said she was ready to go home because she was tired of worrying about her safety on a daily basis. That's one of the many mentally exhausting aspects of being a PCV.

By meredith gaffney ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 5:04 pm: Edit Post

The Peace Corps is an incredible opportunity for American Adults to understand another culture and share experiences abroad. As an RPCV, I believe that our staff gave an incredible security briefing before we left training, (actually scared us at points!). Nevertheless, I think we need to remember that Peace Corps Volunteers are very privileged people in rural settings. Maybe I am wrong BUT the fact that we were completely different made the assimilation into the community all the more exciting. I can not remember one woman in my group that was not constantly cat-called, break-ins for the swiss army knife/ mag lite were pretty common, and if the mayor didn’t hit on someone (or the local priest in my case) we would have been shocked!

Please do not misinterpret this. I do feel for all of the people involved in the attacks mentioned in this article. I also saw my best friend attacked. Nonetheless, the Peace Corps gives us the opportunity to leave the protective bubble of our own "Main Street USA" and experience the world. Unfortunately, the world is not always safe.

One more note: I was never attacked during the Peace Corps although I was while working for the United Nations...

By J Rachels ( on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 5:10 pm: Edit Post

Your personal saftey is just that- yours. My experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania (Group 10, 00-02) bears this out. I was forced to move from my first site because I had the balls to get out of a car that my counterpart put me into, destination ?who knows?, with four young men. I jumped out and ran away when they stopped to get gas. I stayed with another PCV in town and found a new job. PC response? They forced me to move. I was placed in a site where I had no assignment and no place to live. This sounds like a joke, but I'm serious: My program director knew someone at the site who had a club for kids, so she sent me there. I lived with that family of 4 in a two bedroom apartment for 5 days with no running water. Then, I was called to the PC office and literally yelled at (My country director was yelling so loud he spit into my face). I was told I was sent to that site on purpose to make me quit. My program director stopped returning my phone calls. My response? I was upset, but I decided then and there to succeed. I found my own apartment (the common arrangment in RO), found my own work (which had nothing to do with my sector) and had a successful service. I tried to make it work out with the family I stayed with, but the son attacked me twice, and the kids club was non-existant. When I reported these things, they were, of course, ignored.

I'm not proud of everything I did, though. I'll take responsibility for that, too. I won't blame that on unresponsiveness from the PC office, or loneliness, or another culture that exploits women to a greater degree than we do here. Once, I jokingly tried to start a fight with a guy at a disco, who turned out to be pretty serious about fighting. I had to run away. The same night, I fell down, accidentally exposing myself, and embarrassed myself in front of dozens of people because I was too drunk. I'm lucky I didn't have anything serious happen to me. The fact is, almost all volunteers have these stories to tell, too. Some of them end in a laugh, others don't. I remember hearing a story during our training of a PCV involved in a knife fight in a bar over a woman. I remember thinking, "This is a PCV?" Yes. Let's be honest with each other, here.

To women: frankly, it's not PC's job to protect you. Before you come, they can't send a memo to all of the men in a country that says, "Hey, don't grab the white girl like you do the others because she's special." Hints: if you walk into a place and you are the only female, it's not time to do everyone a favor and break down gender barriers- you need to leave. If you see that all the women around are wearing clothing that covers their head, arms, legs, and even their face, then you need to be doing it, too. Jeans and a tank top are probably not a good idea. Don't take any form of transportation at night- you'll notice that women in many countries don't. No one in your country of service cares that you graduated cum laude from Harvard, with a double major in political economy and underwater basketweaving.

In short: PC is wrong to ignore volunteers. Volunteers are wrong to think PC can do anything about most of the problems they have. In addition to PC unresponsiveness, the series suggests that two other things have constributed to what they call a rise in attacks: unqualified and inexperienced volunteers, and more female PCVs. To PC Washington: we don't need your "protection", thank you. Send us to the same places as before, but use common sense when putting us in our sites. No housing? Guerilla fighting? Don't send anyone there. Anyone, male or female. No other females in the school? A volunteer has been raped in that housing before? Depending on the country and there are several options, whatever you come up with. Obviously, ignoring issues and witholding information are no longer options. Another suggestion: Keep people busy. When they have work, they don't get into trouble. I know, I know, cultural exchange is two thirds of the point. Let's get that done while people are working.
Sorry for the spelling, but I'm at work and trying to do this in a the rest of us.

By Shirlene Allred ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 5:29 pm: Edit Post

I read the newspaper articles and the following comments. It is very saddening to read about this growing problem and the apparent lack of support from the in-country administrative staff. I was a volunteer in Swaziland 77-80. I recall the practice of posting volunteers in pairs and we were encouraged to build support from the local residents. The pairing didn't always work but it helped most. Each year we had to be briefed on the current dangers and what the American Embasy determined we needed to be informed about. I recall many stories of other volunteers who had suffered beatings and rape. In fact one team member had suffered a very bad beating her first year in country. She was walking home, drunk, at night, from a bar. We were often warned to know the dangers of excess drinking and use of drugs. I knew of several volunteers who became seriously harmed from excess drink and the easy availablity of drugs like dagga (marijuana). Away from home, family and things you are familar with, the loneliness and feeling trapped had placed a terrible burdan on most volunteers, especially when it is the first time to be away. I was lucky to have a support from a local family and the fellow teachers and students. Also, I was very fortunate to had been strongly briefly from back in high school. A couple of teenage girls had disappeared and it was later learned they had been killed by Bundy. The local Air Force base had sent a security representative to the local high schools to inform the girls how to defend themselves and, most importantly, how to avoid bad situations. This training still remains with me to this day after 30+ years and I have travelled to many places alone (Ethiopia, Kenya, etc) and had no troubles. I hope that similar training is developed and given to volunteers if the Powers-that-be can recognize the need.
Also, please note of the listing of some of those killed while in PC had died as a result of a car accident. Two such women listed died while PCVs in Swaziland and I was informed was a result from a vehicle accident.

By Paula Stiles ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 5:51 pm: Edit Post

Dear Kristy and those who supported her,

I have every right to speak on this forum. As for your comments--you know nothing about me or my experiences in Peace Corps, either before, during or after my service. You therefore have no way of telling whether or not I am ignorant of the subject at hand. Nor do I owe you any excuses for my comments here. As for my being a mouthpiece of Peace Corps...I'm sorry. I was laughing too hard to type for a minute there. In my opinion, this article series will serve to make PCVs less safe, not more, and I dislike things that make PCVs less safe. If you choose to be angry with me for making that statement, do so, but please refrain from personal attacks next time you post.

And yes, the subsequent posters who said that one's safety is at least partially one's responsibility have a point. It's all very well to say that it's not one's fault if one is attacked in Peace Corps. Certainly, there is no way to do anything that would reduce that risk to zero, which would indicate that blaming the victim is pointless and cruel. However, there are things that PCVs can do to make themselves safer, and isn't the article accusing Peace Corps of not telling PCVs about those things? If the responsibility for volunteer safety lies solely with the actions of Peace Corps, why is it such a problem that Peace Corps withholds information from its volunteers in the first place?

For myself, I am not some helpless female who needs to be protected all the time and I do not need to stay at home where nothing bad will ever happen to me. I accepted the risks that Peace Corps presented when I went in and I accepted the resultant consequences (some of which still haunt me). I prefer to keep the responsibility for my own safety as my own, rather than relying on the kindness of strangers. At least then, I know it's in the hands of someone I can trust.

Paula Stiles
Cameroon, '91-'94

By Amelia Sparks ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 7:04 pm: Edit Post

I have serious quibbles with the article. First, on some of the side notes: Peace Corps is currently well aware that having concrete jobs to do increases satisfaction and decreases the E.T. rate and is taking that seriously. I also take issue with faulting Peace Corps for having a majority of young women. I actually felt safer being a woman – we were allowed to participate in both men and women’s worlds, and we were more likely to be taken in, taken care of, and accepted. Men, for some reason, seemed more likely to be viewed as threats and/or competitors.
As for the content of the article, I am annoyed by the fear-mongering. We are in fact, NOT sent to the “world’s most dangerous countries” and evacuated when conditions in the country or even the area change (ie Uzbekistan prior to the US invading Afghanistan). Poor does not mean dangerous, neither in the U.S. nor abroad despite that common misperception. Peace Corps volunteers live in areas where life is harder and more uncertain - not necessarily less safe, just not as predicable.
You cannot conduct yourself as you would in the States and you cannot expect the same level of legal protection and justice. In Morocco, sexual harassment is not illegal, it’s not even immoral - it is in fact, almost expected. I never made eye contact with strange men. I wore modest clothes. I never went out alone after dark. When traveling alone or with other women, I would look for someone to be a protector – families, the train attendents, other Americans or Europeans. One volunteer punched a guy who was harassing her, hitting him so hard he fell off his moped. He came after her and then pulled a knife on the (male) PCV she was with when he tried to intervene. A crowd eventually seperated and calmed them all down. I still believe to this day that while it might have felt right (and certainly satisfying) to hit the guy, it was completely wrong and totally stupid. Among the standards of proper behavior is that women do not threaten a man’s authority or question his physical superiority. It was not our job to bring women’s rights to this country, as much as we fantasized about it. Crossing social boundaries will most certainly make locals angry.
Timothy and Debbie’s point that the locals do not ask for us is an excellent point – we are imposed on them and its a lot to expect that they befriend us, teach us basic life skills like doing laundry on a scrub board, AND protect us from what is often viewed as our own foolishness. The fact that so many do all of that and more is one of the amazing things about our host countries. We chose to be there, the onus is on us to follow their rules, as difficult and unjust as that seemed to us at times. I was robbed, cheated, faced constant verbal harassment, and had rocks thrown at me.This formed maybe 5% of my experience there. I was also shown overwhelming hospitality, was literally given the shoes off my friend’s feet, was helped over and over by both friends and strangers, and was finally, finally excepted in all my foreignness by my village.
That being said, we did have a local APCD who did not really get it – several women had experiences that went beyond annoying to actual physical and emotional danger – a couple had stalkers, and others were sexually harassed by government officials and they were basically told to put up with it. In my opinion, Peace Corps should’ve made it clear that these officials needed to treat volunteers respectfully or their provinces would no longer be receiving volunteers, and if possible, leaned on local police and leaders to better protect their volunteers. Both Trainees and local staff, if they do not currently receive cross-cultural training, with a component on personal welfare and safety, then they should.
A. Sparks, Morocco 94-96

By Ken Rustad ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 8:07 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps has sponsored RPCV conferences in the past. Perhaps it is time to put a moratorium on expansion and reconsider a variety of management policies such as the five year limit on staff. The use of management recruitment firms to screen applicants for the positions of country directors is another example. The numbers of former volunteers should be maximized in these positions. Staff should spend as much time in the field as possible and be rated accordningly. My list could go on and on. The focus of Volunteer safety should be right at the top.

Volunteers should be placed in family and community living situations as much as possible. Additional training for younger volunteers might be something else to be considered -- time to stop.

A conference based on the vast variety RPCV experience would be a valuable first step.

By ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 8:51 pm: Edit Post

You know Paula, John and others who believe its a volunteer's responsibility to be safe. When we join Peace Corps we are placed in unique situations and do represent the US not matter how you feel. When we are placed in these situations, acts of violence are beyond our control. When unscruplous individuals act against us in a violent way, its an assault on Peace Corps (all of us).

My thoughts are that Peace Corps Washington is wrong in its preventive measures to reduce violence by not mandating placing two volunteers at every site. It will not take away from the program.

As you know, we have been lobbying them to do so since 1993 on attrition rates and 1996 on security and safety. The entrenched Federal PC staff in Washington and staffers on the hill who have not experienced a safety breech are re--sponse able in helping in prevention. However, former volunteers have a "it hasn't happened to me attitude". From my perspective, these staffers are un-able to respond because of inexperience.

Peace Corps won't hire people who have these experiences or if they have, it is a minority of people. Therefore, there inexperience in these positions provides us with an empty shell of a placement, health and safety planning. It outweighs the victim's perspectives on these important issues. Thus we end up with gaps in policy making and safety breeches.

Also, if you are afraid that the negative press will increase these acts, consider for a minute the Agency's inaction on prevention, health care and squelching of concerns. THEIR inaction from 1996-2003 has excerbated the problem. Question: Who is at fault? Answer: Members of the planning, general counsel, the inspector general's office and each director during these periods regardless of party affiliation. It could have been done quietly but avoidance is politics. We are getting louder in our voices, louder in numbers because there are many fallen volunteers and victims of violence.

What I am concerned with is that the above personnel are helping the unscruplous individuals with inaction in prevention measures.

Also, here is a question for you. How many of these victims got appropriate health care, job development and are still working in development?

Tim, I remember my aunt bringing your situation to my attention in the early 1990's. I never told my aunt about my situation, but she knew what I had gone through. We all know these victimized volunteers have gone through these situations. It is time for Peace Corps to honor up. However, I am not that hopeful because of the staff problems I raised earlier.

Tim, I am glad you got good health care. I believe you got tremendous media attention for your situation. Others don't, they go back into America and have to suffer, pay for it out of pocket and at times end up as "if they went through a war", a war of joining Peace Corps being victimized and being denied health care despite the Deparment of Labor, the Peace Corps and the Government's promise.

Peace Corps has a whole apparatus to "put down" these victims. They will string you along for years until you give up.

Tim. What is your position now?

I still think Peace Corps can be strong, but strong when it recognizes its weaknesses and work on them. Denial will only hurt all of us.

By ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 9:02 pm: Edit Post


In 1995, I went to San Diego and presented attrition rates issues for 60,000 plus who have not completed their two years. It cost me a thousand dollars to present it and get it "tabled", by you folks.

No Conference and stalling.

Two Volunteers at every site and health, compensation and opportuntity for these folks.

I say we make a date to go to Congress, all the victims, by pass PC's inept policies and get them mandated in Congress.

By Ron Seibel ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 10:42 pm: Edit Post

I was in Kaz 1. STAGING and aranged for a seller of "personal safety alarms" to visit. The woman who ran Staging said "No way! It would be an insult to our host country for PCV to wear personal alarms." Sure as hell, one of our group was raped. She told me, "They should have listened to you." (So much for PCDC)

In country training, we had an "expert" teach self defense. How to break holds, etc. I offered to teach them USMC ways to "take out" an attacker.
I was told, "PC doesn't want volunteers killing HCN, even if attacked." (Better to kill than be killed.)

Me? I was well protected: Taught daughter of mayor, daughter of KNB Chief, most of my students had mafia fathers and I always carried a knife which I can/have used.

By kim ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 11:03 pm: Edit Post

The article may be a bit sensational, but the issue it's addressing requires it. The peace corps has been able to stay out of the news and keep the violence covered up for so long, that it requires an extreme approach to get attention. It is sometimes the only way to get the government to take action. If he wrote that it may be a little bit dangerous, but the same as in the US, how many people would stop and think after reading it? How many of us would be having a conversation? It's the best way for him to provoke the stagnating offices of peace corps safety into action.
In Jordan, which only lasted 5 years, they covered up the violent aspect. We thought it would be very safe and that they had researched the villages we were in. Then we discovered that some of our "employers" thought we were there to learn Arabic. There was a lack of research put into the program and most of us feel that our main purpose was for politcal relations. Which is fine, as long as they don't risk the safety of the volunteers in order to prove how much they trust the country. They can use us, but not without ensuring our safety.
We asked for some sort of training for the female volunteers. A few hours in self-defense classes would have allowed us all to feel safer and have the skills to protect ourselves. I have no problem with fighting back, but not everyone has that mentality. We also requested pepper spray for us to have on hand as a preventive resource. They felt that would be inappropriate as well, because it showed a lack of trust in the country and what if someone found out our volunteers were supplied with a defensive weapon?
So, yes, peace corps is a great program, but it should post the crime levels freely for each country. We expect at least that much from college campuses, it shouldn't be too much to ask. Also, I agree that one violent death, one murder, should be enough to cause a total re-evaluation and maybe, even a re-modeling of the program in that specific country. Is that too much to ask for? It would force them to admit a problem exists, but it would also show how involved and concerned they are with the safety of the volunteers.
I could go on about unprepared country directors that think Latin American culture is the same as Middle Eastern culture, but then that article hasn't been written yet...

By steve manning ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 11:34 pm: Edit Post

Well, one angle that I have not seen in the postings so far is that many of us probably would prefer to report assaults or other incidents to the local authorities than to the Peace Corps. I was robbed at gunpoint once and it honestly never occurred to me to report it to the Peace Corps office. I didn't see them as a law enforcement authority. I just went to the local police station, made out a report, got a sympathetic response, and went home. Being on a Peace Corps allowance, I didn't lose a whole lot of money! I surely wouldn't have wanted to be pulled out of the country as a result of that one incident (by the way I was living with another male volunteer and the two of us were together when the event happened - both of us, along with another male expatriate in whose car we were riding, were victims. If he ever reported it to the Peace Corps either I don't know.)

I think incidents such as this may account for a significant part of the "underreporting". It's not like we are trying to hide anything, just that not all PCV's see the Peace Corps as their law enforcement authority or would want it to be so.

For what it's worth - I think there is a correlation between the frequency of such events and the number of guns per capita in the general population, regardless of economic status or which country it is, Peace Corps host country or not.

By samaki ( - on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 11:41 pm: Edit Post

I was in Kenya (81-83). I lived alone, traveled throughout Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, and other than being briefly "detained" by police in all 3 countries, had no troubles in the 2 1/2 years I was there.
Apparently, luck was on my side, but a few common sense rules go a long way. Don't get drunk (and stupid), don't draw attention to yourself, and above all learn and respect the culture.

By Martin Giannini ( on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 8:41 am: Edit Post

Have to second this last posting. There is a heavy burden on PCVs to learn the language, understand the culture, and in a very real sense, talk more quietly. Also, fear goes a long way in giving the space for awful things to happen. And defensiveness sounds to me like the biggest problem among PCVs as I speak to them today about this issue. A defenseless stance (in other words... hand over the money!!! what's it worth next to life??) will go a long way in keeping one safe. This can be spoken of ad infinitim in terms of cultivating a good attitude, good character, right awareness, etc., etc... but i won't go further here. Hope you get my drift.

Martin Giannini
RPCV Togo 95 - 97
CCV Malawi Current 03

By John Reeder ( - on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 11:27 am: Edit Post

These are all great postings, and all add to understanding volunteer safety. In my opinion, Scott Foust's posting had the best first step to better safety: in-country staff must place volunteer safety at a higher level, including mandatory placement of two vounteers per site, better training of entering volunteers as to strategies to avoid becoming a victim, and better medical support when an assault occurs.
Country directors and APCDs should be fired if they cannot do this.

Secondly, volunteers who return with medical problems are basically on their own in the U.S., and PC/Washington does little to help them. The PC law should be changed to automatically provide medical coverage to all returned volunteers for two years, similar to what U.S. soldiers get thru the Veterans Administration (VA). Currently, returned volunteers have to haggle (including law suits )with the Federal Workman's Compensation Program to get reimbursed for medical costs. An outrageous system that effectively denies medical treatment.

I was a volunteer in the late 60s and early 70s, and I acknowledge that the Third World has become a much more dangerous place than my era. In-country staff must do a better job; entering volunteers should be trained and supported to the new reality of 2003, and entitled to automatic medical coverage upon return to the U.S. for any medical, including psychological, problems that may have resulted from their service.

John Reeder
Brazil 1969-72

By Jamie Holmes ( - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 11:17 am: Edit Post

many interesting posts here...
Romania 06/2002- 09/2003
here’s my experience plus some suggestions…

Last summer my training group met on the Black Sea for mid-service. After one year, it seemed that we had lost the enthusiasm we arrived with; many were bored, apathetic, listless.
I could not help but recall my first visit to a volunteer in the field the summer before. He was not an English teacher, as I was to be, but I asked about his work, trying to be friendly: “What do you do?”
He deadpanned: “As little as possible.”
He wasn’t kidding. As the year went by I would hear stories of volunteers traveling abroad for months at a time against regulations, of volunteers having no work at site, and of staff encouraging volunteers to stay in places where they weren’t being productive. I would hear of threats of a volunteer coup against the Country Director (who has since left) and a letter of complaint to Washington, and I would begin to grasp a disturbingly common distain for Peace Corps staff services in Romania—with the notable exception of the Romanian Doctor.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing I’ve realized since I returned in early September, was that many of these problems have been going on for a long time. A Peace Corps classic, “Keeping Kennedy’s Promise,” by C. Payne Lucas and Kevin Lowther, quotes from an internal evaluation report in Senegal in 1963: “Volunteers lose their dedication when they find sloppy and indifferent programming and back-up, and become sloppy and indifferent themselves.” In the introduction to the second edition, the authors make clear that these problems were and have been widespread and that they still exist today. And Jack Vaughn, the former director of the Peace Corps, described the book’s lessons as, if anything, more relevant now than ever before. The second edition also points out that, as far as training methods, “Peace Corps is arguably doing a worse job [now] than in the 1960’s and 1970’s.”
So how could these problems have persisted for so long?
One answer is that few want the information made public. Aside from those volunteers who have lived horror stories due to poor programming and support, few have had strong incentive to protest, and fewer have had the energy or resources to try to gain a wider understanding of the pros and cons of the Peace Corps.
It was a talking point of bitter humor within the Romania program, that while here we were doing so little, people back home would always consider us do-gooders. The general idea seemed to be, although we didn’t like it: Stick out the two years, keep your mouth-shut, and enjoy the benefits of the Peace Corps’ name when you get home.
At the end of the famous Peace Corps motto “Peace Corps: The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” it seemed appropriate to add three words: “…To Not Do.” More than once there were jokes about that motto over cheap cold beers at cafes.
There were some exceptional volunteers in Romania, and they do deserve high praise. But the Peace Corps needs to seriously rethink their strategy. They need to slim down the number of volunteers in the field, not expand. They need to send those qualified volunteers only to where they are needed, and they need to implement better monitoring systems. Last year, in the case of volunteer Walter Poirier, it took two months before Peace Corps realized he was missing. But volunteers don’t disappear for two months before you realize they’re gone if you really care how people are spending their time.
Staff indifference, it seemed, often had to do with antagonism toward Washington, where the expansion-at-all-costs theory is still in effect.
One problem which has been touched upon is the five-year rule. In my experience, it seemed that the effect of the rule (which applies to US Direct Hire staff only) was only to weaken the control of the CD in relation to the host country nationals in charge of running the actual programs. The CD arrived not speaking the language, and unless volunteers complained had no way for her to monitor how the staff was performing. Even when volunteers did complain, the CD was left with little choice but to side with the program staff. After all, these were the people with all the contacts (with the schools, orgs. Etc)—the program was dependant on them. I would be interested to see the turnover ratio of direct-hire staff stay versus hcn staff. I suspect a few people will regard my objections here as xenophobic, but let’s be honest-These are some of the most corrupt governments in the world, they must request Peace Corps presence, volunteers are often without needed skills but with access to USAID dollars, volunteers often work closely with the government, and they are often trusting and naïve. And what: because a program with noble intentions begins hiring locals, cultural attitudes immediately change? The effect I observed was rather that the hcn’s parroted American ideals while scoffing at them privately. To a great extent, who can blame them?—look at the volunteers Washington is sending over.
And why not train the volunteers in the United States, as they used to? It would be more expensive, but then at least the training would not be conducted by exactly those people who (necessarily) have incentives not to disclose the entire truth.
As on Ukraine RPCV put it, the corrupt practices of Peace Corps host country national staff often mirror the corruption one finds in the society itself.
When you send unskilled, poorly-trained volunteers (of which I was one) to communities that actually need help, you end up insulting the communities and confusing the volunteers (and how many volunteers would return to say: the problem was that I wasn’t skilled enough. If you weren’t going to train me, why didn’t you tell me?). You also end up with a deep-rooted lack of professionalism. Volunteers should be more mature, more professional, and more expertly assigned to their sites. Their backup, above all, needs to be superb. Having a high number of volunteers in itself does nothing but provide PR fodder. In other words-excuse again the military language-the Peace Corps mentality ought to be less Overwhelming Force and more Navy Seal.
As for the Congressional investigation, Dayton Daily news is right. We should first see how wide the problems stretch. Then will we be able to pick up the pieces and remake what ought to be one of the proudest American programs.

By Darren Strickland ( on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 2:38 pm: Edit Post

I'm personally glad that this report, and the subsequent widespread dialogue it has created, has surfaced. If for no other reason it dispels a popular myth that Peace Corps is nothing more than a figurative two-year waltz in the park where one "smells the exotic roses" each day. There are serious safety issues, risks, and other miscellaneous difficulties that every PCV is familiar with. Potential candidates should have the opportunity of learning about such circumstances via accurate and candid internal and external publications.

By SteveAlexis ( - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 11:24 pm: Edit Post

What bothered me most about my service in Poland from 1997-1999 was the difference between the living standards of PCV's in the field and the American staff at the HQ's. So far I have not heard of a country director being raped, beaten or robbed in any county at any time during Peace Corps history. Maybe that is what it would take for Peace Corps. to address all these issues which they currently handle by sticking their heads in the sand.

By Kristy Lord ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 9:15 pm: Edit Post

X Bolivia country director Mimi Smith lived in a walled guarded estate in La Paz. She and PCMOs criticized me for not being comfortable walking alone at night after I was raped despite that fact that I DID hitchhike by camion at night 5 hrs to my site and hiked across a river 1 hr into the village of Novillero (for months after the rape). In training they told us to always walk in pairs and to travel with other PCVs yet when I refused to travel to La Paz when a PCV changed her plans and would not go with me, CD and PCMOs used this against me in thier decision to Medically seperate me for PTSD and ajustment disorder. This contradiction (on safety policy) is what frustrates me.

I believe that the investigation was dropped when Lab results (DNA evidence) didn't match. I have e-mails from CD to IG's office of the discussion about "clearing the innocent taxi driver" They were afraid that the man I wrongly identified in a line-up would sue the Peace corps. CD and Igs office decided to drop the case (without telling me). Soon after I was brought to La Paz and learned that I was being medically seperated. I never went back to my site.

I was also humilated by having to discuss a personal relationship that occured at my site with CD PCMOs. I learned that "accusations" of an affair were brought to the attention of PCMO and CD by fellow PCVs (my friends). I had ended the "relationship" however they didn't take my word for truth. I learned from DDN series that Mimi Smith dropped the investigation/case because she believed that Bolivian authorities would not look favorable on my "affair". I am angry that PCVs disussed my personal relations with PCMOs and that ultimately my rapist runs free (and possibly has been involved in the 8 rapes that have occured since 1999) because PC Bolivia didn't do anything as they were too busy judging me.

I wrote a 6 page appeal while in La Paz explaining my relationship and fighting for the right to complete my service (returning after being raped) and I was ignored and forced to return to the US. Nothing was ever done.

This series is important to me because I have learned new things about Mimi Smith's decision to close my case, I learned that the DNA evidence was destroyed, and I learned that more rapes occured in taxis after I left.

As I worked with Bolivian authorities, the IG's office, and the CD, they told me I was doing a service to other women (Bolivian women rarely report such crimes due to shame etc)I truly felt that by coming forward I may prevent others from being afraid to initiate an ivestigation. I now feel that putting myself through a line-up, translating my story to groups of people repeatedly, supplying DNA evidence, having an exam with forensics, photos of my bruises) I was ridiculed for my "social behavior".

In case you haven't read the article, Mimi Smith stated that "there were plenty of chances for Lord to escape, she may have felt that he was an interesting guy to date and you know, maybe he was a really neat guy, I don't know, I don't know what was going through her head".

There really isn't much I can do because she doesn't work for PC anymore. Did you know that CDs serve 2 min 5 max years. How can they be held accountable after the fact?

I am thankful to PC for my ongoing (paid therapy) and for my experience in Bolivia. I love the culture, music, and I treasure my photos that I display everywhere in my home and office.

I think day one of the series "mission of sacrifice" has given me a sense of justice as I have been exposed (and forced to relive it all)and Russell has exposed the CD's comments exposing her ignorance and poor training as well.

I am not against the PC but hope to get swome questions answered and improvements to be made. I know I am not alone as others have been "sent home, gotten rid of" to solve the problem quickly and avoid bad press.

There is more but I can't tell it all now. Believe me when I say that this is not the whole story. I would have to research the boxes and boxes of documents and e-mails to write the facts.

I thank Russell for helping me with some of it.

By ( - on Saturday, November 01, 2003 - 12:55 am: Edit Post

I have those boxes and boxes too. I read this posting, Kristy. Again, it gets me upset. If this particular CD used PCV's gossip, then that can be possibly expunged from your record. It is not medically related and is capricious in nature and unrelated to your "taxi situation". I can't believe she started to cast blame.

I am also sorry you had to bring everything into the open because of the assumptions of the staff and that your confidentiality was broken by PC.

I know you have alot more to say. Its unfortunate Peace Corps has no empathic staff members and a place to review separations like yours.

I wish you the best Kristy. I am glad you have voiced your opinion to some of the "it didn't happen to me" volunteers.


By gvibe ( - on Tuesday, November 04, 2003 - 1:44 am: Edit Post

This message is in response to Kristy Lord's Message on the Dayton Daily News website titled "Shame."


These articles are not telling the truth, they are telling part-truths. Thousands of volunteers have had negative experiences, a smaller number than that have had those problems exacerbated by poor PC admin. Over one hundred thousand PCV experiences have been positive. It is so important that the many people who have been abused by the system step out and tell their story, but Carollo's articles are a portrayal of that proportionately small group as the majority.

This series is a slanted opposite extreme, a piece with an agenda at slashing down the Peace Corps with the same "Fair and Balanced" tactics Fox News prides itselves on. There's nothing fair and balanced about this. Tossing out 250 deaths to a public without relaying that 170,000 volunteers have served is irresponsible. Statistics without context is sensationalism. Portraying international citizens as dangerous machete-wielding psychopaths is xenophobic.

Finally, the propaganda in this last piece about RPCVs being some kind of cult who are effectively trying to stomp out anyone who has a grievance is simply untrue. I want to hear these stories, I want answers, reform, I want to see the Peace Corps take a keener responsibility in it's selection of in-country staff. Required pairing up volunteers is ludicrous for many reasons, but the dialogue about it is valuable. These articles do not accomplish that, they try to incite a public outcry in an effort to dismantle the agency.

Your statement, "the articles are not 'his stories', he is not 'hurting the victims', and he is not threatening our dignity by giving details of specific crimes and PCV's lives." Your wrong about this. In his investigation into Carlos Amador his hostile reporting tactics caused us to have to live through Carlos' tragedy again. Carollo slanders Carlos, his family, and all who respect his memory by smearing his name. His aim was not to get the whole story, but his story, how these different tragedies fit into the picture that would cause the most negative sensation, and then he wrote that this was the real story. That's wrong and irresponsible. Why didn't they include the Amadores messages in the response piece written today? He has caused us a great deal of suffering and sadness, twice more than the Amador tragedy.

He and Hopgood have utilized these guerilla journalism tactics with many other RPCVs in his effort to get his story, his angle, his slant.

Your axe to grind should be featured, but not overshadow the decades of valuable projects, insight, and profound positive impact that Peace Corps has had around the world. Nor should it overshadow the majority of positive perspectives on the Peace Corps. You have a right and responsibility to tell your story. You have no right to silence positive opinions of the Peace Corps, because they blame you for what happened. They don't, what happened to you was a tragedy. The fact that the country director treated you in that manner was an atrocity. No one has questioned your sincerity, or the truthfulness of your story. RPCVs are trying to separate the exagerative crud Carollo smeared in many parts of this story from the truth and what things the Peace Corps should correct. You continually try to point your finger at those volunteers, that they blame you for what happened, to discredit anyone's opinion that believes Russell wrong. Enough.

This statement by the DDN takes the cake:

"'Many volunteers exhibit a kind of selectively healthy mind where they just want to think about the positives,' Hogan said. 'To use an old-fashioned (psychological) phrase, it's a sort of mild hysteria.'"

So the optimism of most volunteers is hysteria?! Perhaps they could come out with a pill to cure us of optimism, a prozac for crazy idealists that think they can actually make the world a better place. Optimism is such a rare thing in society these days, maybe it is a psychological disorder.

The only purpose that statement serves is to incite. Well, I'm done with the Dayton Daily News. I refuse to read any more of it's trash, and will boycott all Cox newspapers from now on.

Good luck, Kristy, on your and Russell's crusade to slam the Peace Corps at all costs. I hope at some point, you find peace.

El Salvador RPCV

By Karl Rosenberg ( - on Tuesday, November 04, 2003 - 2:19 pm: Edit Post

At the risk of being repetitive to a few, this was my letter to the editor at the Dayton Daily News. I was interviewed over the phone twice by Meiling Hopgood in May for the article on Karen Phillips, as I knew both Karen(briefly)and her likely assailant, Jimmy Ondo.

I have been quite interested in the overwhelming negative responses to the articles on the DDN's posting board (where KL seems to have posted about 30 times in favor of Russel Carollo, and to my count only 4 others have --in general-- supported the DDN) as well as the poll responses, where online readers have ticked the response contrary to the DDN's viewpoint at a rate of 70% to 30% for about every poll.

Also interesting is Editor Jeff Bruce's assertion that the overall negative response to the articles has been the result of an organized effort from the Peace Corps. I don't recall my urgent action memo from HQ...does anyone else? He then promises that the DDN's Editorial column this week will contain views expressed on the story from readers...and so far, that has not been happening. Could it be the DDN has decided to cut its losses?

There is no reason to denegrate the victims of attacks. Peace Corps should always strive to be better. Clearly Vol security and safety is a shared obligation between the Vol and the Peace Corps, as neither can work effectively without the other.

As you'll see below, my problem with the articles is primarily the pains they take to villify people from outside the US. It's us vs. them...and so late in the day. Also, the amount the articles like to throw around this "250 dead" and the grotesque full page color feature (in the print version)on these Vols who died in service, as though the Peace Corps had a significant role in all or most of these deaths. I wonder how many of those depicted would have appreciated being used in this way? I have a strong feeling Karen Phillips would not have approved.

Anyway, enough of that. Here's what I sent Jeff Bruce at the DDN:

Dear Dayton Daily News:

Peace Corps Volunteers who have suffered robbery, assault, rape and worse deserve to have their stories told. The Peace Corps owes these Volunteers the very best of its efforts to prepare them for their service and to keep them safe while they are in service. And if something happens, the Peace Corps owes families and friends full and transparent disclosure.

On these points, I fully agree.

I do take strong issue however with some overall themes and messages from your articles.

Foremost, six days into the voluminous piece, and I can barely recall any references to host country nationals as decent people. Men from anywhere-outside-the-United-States are portrayed as little more than predators lying in wait...and I can barely recall reading anything about women from the countries in which the Peace Corps serves.

Through its editorial angle, the Dayton Daily News is perpetuating the notion that we (as Americans) should venture outside the borders of our nation at our own peril: that we are safe only within the confines of the U.S.

More broadly, that the 42 years and 170,000 Volunteers that have embarked on their Peace Corps service have been little more than a waste of time, or as you have put it, a footnote to American Foreign Policy: unskilled, unwelcome and unsafe. It's too bad that this is/has become the editorial opinion of the Dayton Daily News.

The tone of most of the articles mirrors our nation’s post 911 regression into isolationism. Requesting that Congress and the President investigate the Peace Corps while the nation under their leadership moves into an intractable and ill-conceived military situation in Iraq (where, by my calculations, seven months of the war is coming in with a bill higher than the 42 years of the Peace Corps worldwide and a roughly equal US mortality rate) seems like the ill-choosing of a jury.

As the son of Volunteers (and one who spent two childhood years in Kenya), a Peace Corps Gabon, Oyem-based Volunteer for three years, a trainer in Gabon and Cameroon, and since, an aid worker in Angola and Haiti, I feel the articles take a too narrow view of this institution that in its history has offered a sadly rare positive model of what the United States can be in the world: the source of compassion, brotherhood and good works.

Volunteers do deserve the best. They are making a sacrifice. The Peace Corps is obligated to do the best that it can for its Volunteers. Yet, Volunteers cannot be guaranteed safe passage, no matter what changes the Peace Corps makes. The mission they are undertaking is real life, not an adventure.

Your articles fail to note how much we as Volunteers have received from those we come to serve: the humanity, the patience, the caring and the love. According to the Dayton Daily News, the people we have come to serve are either a footnote or the villains in all of your articles.

The only conclusion of what should be done with the agency that can be reached -- unless I am missing something -- is that Peace Corps and its unskilled, unwanted and unsafe Volunteers should be scrapped. This conclusion does a disservice to all the 170,000 Volunteers, especially those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in their service.


Karl Rosenberg,
Kenya (70-72); Gabon (92-95, 97, 98); Cameroon (98)

By ( - on Saturday, November 08, 2003 - 8:11 pm: Edit Post

I think the above postings that attack the article by Carollo and Kristy Lord's experience provides why these stories are vital. I believe Carollo's stories would not have been possible if Peace Corps had done the right thing when these safety breeches started happening in the early 1990's.

RPCV's who have not gone through these expereinces know that Peace Corps has not done enough to prevent many of these deaths by faulty placement policy. It is irresponsible to suggest that two volunteers at every site should not be implemented. 86% percent were alone.

Also, what has Peace Corps done for these people who have gone through these experiences? They continue to hurt, lie, discriminate and put down these volunteers. Instead they promote volunteers who think like them. They don't want volunteers around who have had these safety breeches.

Peace Corps sends them into an oblivion of FECA, into America without health care for service related injuries and doesn't provide upward mobility opportunities either for these folks. You folks above should be behind volunteers who are part of the 170,000 Volunteers.

Our stories do deserve to be highlighted because the Congress and Peace Corps won't do anything about safety, attrition and health care until we start to bring awareness to the American public.
It is wrong that Directors through the 1990's and 2003 have not listened to our experiences in order to strengthen the program.

Arrogance from Peace Corps and the staff who did not do the right thing over these years are now having to hear our concerns.


We loved our Peace Corps service as well. It does not hurt the program to place two volunteers at every site. These stories should come out now. Peace Corps never addressed these issues in the past and seem to be doing the same now. When policy is changed, bring justice in our cases and "don't blame victims", then there will be Peace at the Peace Corps.

By ( - on Sunday, November 09, 2003 - 4:44 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps witholding information is Ok? This is in response to one of the Postings above from the woman who worked in Cameroon. They should not withhold any information at anytime. If it is vital to withold information and the volunteer has a problem. Peace Corps should automatically provide compensation immediately, find the volunteer work if they can't serve in Peace Corps again and give a full explanation as to why they have to withold information.

No one should fall by the way side because of an act of violence, threats or rape. Witholding information is par for the course at Peace Corps.

They currently are witholding twelve pagaes under so called national security with my name on it in my case. I did not join Peace Corps to go through an incident. I did not join Peace Corps to have a Federal career ruined. I had worked for the Department of labor the year before I joined Peace Corps and was going to continue in the Federal government after service.

Instead, Peace Corps experience has stopped my career. Due to the fact, I went through an incident at my site, I won't be getting an opportunity like others after service. Applying for jobs in the government or as a contractor becomes useless because when you need security clearance for more responsibility, the incident and that one night comes back to haunt you in your career.

Beware to Volunteers who have gone through these breeches. Peace Corps will do it to you too.

That is why you need an attorney. We have to be on equal footing with the Peace Corp's staff of attorney's at General Counsel. Peace Corps should not be able to ruin careers. That is why we need an attorney in these cases.

To the RPCV's who are now ready to pounce. Consider the fact that you could have had this done to you randomly. Always, walk in the other person's shoes before you speak. You people always have to dimiss people (your collegues who served) in your arguements, such as a comment that was made in another posting related to Peace Corps safety, "if you throw out the 250 who have death or missing victims, and look at the 170,000 who served". This is exactly the kind of mentality and unjust thinking I speak of.

To those at Peace Corps in the staff who have been involved in my case. God has a funny way of making his case.

Equal Opportunity and discrimination mean what they say. Every person who serves in Peace Corps should be protected under these rights.


By ( - on Monday, November 10, 2003 - 7:48 am: Edit Post

In addition to the above posting, I want to add something about recieving FECA benefits if Peace Corps decides to separate you due to a safety issue.

The system at Peace Corps is worse than in the 1970's and 1980's at getting compensation if you have gone through these safety breeches. In both cases, whether the Peace Corps wants to help your case or not it becomes an invasion of privacy, the system takes forever or ultimately in some cases denies your claim. In denying and administrating over your claim, the Peace Corps has unempathic workers at the DOL (who did not serve Peace Corps) administer your case and the workers in medical services have never served in Peace Corps or have not gone through these type of experiences. There is no other system in place.

Peace Corps in the late eighty's and early ninety's would put these cases under medical services where you would ultimately be on "K" street without services and on your way home.
These practices continue. (Don't come on here and say its improved) Look at Sara Evans and what here family is going through. My family has gone through a heavy financial burden and spiritual burden and still no justice in my case and no health care. IS that fair, "for all you know it all's".

My mom is in her sixties now. She raised seven children by herself after my father passed at the age of 35. I am the oldest. She visited me the other day. She knows I work at this cause daily and would like to see me get some sort of justice in my case. It was a "one day circumstance, an incident" and I reported it, now I can't work in the government or as a contractor. Is that right?

She is getting older and wants only the simple things for me. She is a hero in my mind for bringing us up through struggling and disadvantage circumtances. (She had to help me financially the other day because all this safety stuff has come up lately and its takes away from my other work. What burns my butt, is that that medical nurse was able to get away with so much harm to one person. I have forgiven her. However, if it takes millions of dollars, my life struggle will be to change the peace corps in these areas of slander and gossip.

That medical nurse affected alot of people. God will have judgment on that, not me.

Now these cases are coming to the fore front. I am doing everthing in my power to make it happen. The new Director will have to continue to respond to us because their sytem of separating people and blaming them is over.

It should not happen to one of us. Period. Not one Director has tried to reach out and have an equitable solution. They are arrogant, just like they are arrogant in providing unsafe methods and pratices in the field of Peace Corps service.
The wrongfully separated veterans from the past need resolution to there cases. The cover up of our cases through medical services, through other bogus methods are now going to be challenge because your callous attitude is hurting American families of members who served the Peace Corps.

We are being heard on the hill now. The National Peace Corps Association won't be involved in speaking for us. They don't and won't.

Stop blaming the people who have died, been killed and had these safety breeches. One, I know can't speak for himself and (RPCV members, the GAO and members of Congress have come to the conclusion it was his fault.) How do you know? You weren't there. I blame his APCD until we know.

For the others, keep blaming us and we will be more forceful in our pursuits on the hill for hearings and getting compensation for our service. We haven't even started in the Media yet. The Dayton Daily could just be the beginning.

By kim ( - on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 4:57 am: Edit Post

i agree with you daniel-- we need to stop the "blame the victim" mentality. however, women all over the world have been fighting for that for years and it's a long process. much of the problem is that until it happens to you, it's hard to comprehend the feelings of helplessness and fear that come with being violated in any way, via rape, assault, robbery, etc... one has only to put themselves on the other side to gain a bit more understanding. many of these message posts where volunteers are attacking each other are hurtful and disappointing. what did you learn after being in a new country for 2 years of your life, if you cannot achieve the same understanding for rpcv's that you managed for foreign nationals in your host country? shame on us for trying to say what another rpcv should or should not think about a violation on their own body.
and for those of you shaking your head saying "if only you had used common sense and not been drinking", how do you know? automatically every female that is or was attacked was drinking? that is a such a harsh judgement to make of your peers. men, of any nationality, will do as they wish, whether you've been drinking or not. that's why 1 out of every 3 females in america has been raped, and 1 out of every 3 females in the world has been assaulted in some way by a male. these are very real statistics and should be enough to make you think twice about telling a victim that they should have been more careful.
sorry for the venting, but i expect more from a rpcv website than a bunch of name calling and blame placing. i think we should all learn from each other and try to make something happen. the peace corps will never change if we are silent, we must make noise, and as i said before, we must shock the public in order to alter the current policies. a timid little piece about the small number of volunteers killed in service will never be heard.
i loved my village and my time that i spent in peace corps, and if i had it to do over again, i'm afraid i would, but i have removed the rose colored glasses. i appreciate the beauty of the program, but there are issues. there are many problems that can be remedied, that is why the current articles are being written. i don't feel that they are trying to close the program. i believe they are trying to force peace corps to make adjustments and acknowledge their faults.
so there's another edition of my 2 cents.
closing thought:
just imagine that every account of a woman raped or hurt is your sister, or friend, or wife. put yourself in their shoes, just for that moment, then tell them that they should have known better.
i think you may re-evaluate that position.

daniel-- i'd love to hear more about what you are doing currently. email me anytime. kim

By Daniel ( - on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 9:53 pm: Edit Post


I have to agree with you about the positive aspects of service too. I don't highlight those particulars in most of my postings because of the overwhelming discouragement we have recieved from the Agency and the people working there.

We are changing their minds. Just look at the Peace Corps web site. They have to put security on the front page now and explain themselves to the public. Why? Because recruitment is down because there are folks who served and are disserved by the agency. The Peace Corps was not set up for that purpose. That is why Americans aren't joining as much as they should. The policy is unsafe now and the way they have handled veterans who have gone through a safety breech is beyond the pail.

By Anonymous ( on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 7:03 pm: Edit Post


They were sending two volunteers to sites in 1990.

By Anonymous ( on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 7:03 pm: Edit Post


They were sending two volunteers to sites in 1990.

By ( - on Sunday, November 23, 2003 - 9:42 am: Edit Post

To Karl Rosenberg,

I would have rather heard from Karen. Not your views.

However, we have to read people like you.

She can't speak for herself. However, she defintely would want change in Peace Corps Policy toward Volunteers.

Her father asked why the American Flag was not around her daughters casket. I have to agree with him.

You are wrong to speak for not changing policy of Peace Corps. You aid an abet the Jimmy Ondo's of the world by not systematically changing Peace Corps.

By RPCV ( - on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 12:36 am: Edit Post

I read these postings because I was one of the victims in the article.

First of all--Thank you Paula Stiles--for your eloquent postings. They are well-thought out, intelligent, and obviously heartfelt. I wish I had written them myself. This victim supports your views and your right to share them.

Kristy and Daniel, and those compelled to show "support" by attacking others: You seem to have some serious concerns. You also seem to have some serious personal issues to vent about that are individual to your situations. Your postings about these personal issues aren't really enlightening or helpful in this arena. I'd really encourage you to start your own website or yahoo group where you can connect with those that are interested and discuss options to do something about it, rather than negatively attacking other people here who have comments. This isn't about you as individuals--the article and the commentary is supposed to be about Peace Corps and policies.

I make these suggestions out of empathy--I too had a lot of difficult things to deal with and can see some of my frustration in your comments. But it really is something for you to work out for yourself, not to take out on the entire community that uses this site.

By ( - on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 6:30 am: Edit Post

Why don't you indentify yourself? You live in the Vienna, Virginia area. Do you work at Peace Corps?

They are relevant. The problem is the people like you and Paula Stiles and others forget we served. We will be there. Sorry, you go change Peace Corps policy with your friends on a Yahoo site and then come back and talk.

The article is a about people who were attacked,threatened or beatened or even killed. It is about people's responses to it. Keep coming on here and try to blame someone. The articles is about apathy at Peace Corps and what Peace Corps is doing.

Have some courage. Come forward and tell your story with your name. It is about individuals. Its about the individuals who served with you whether you like it or not. Unfortunately, we will be changing the course of Peace Corps because of the way apathetic volunteers try to put down our concerns and more violence continues. Remember 27 Plus Volunteers killed, died or missing is too large and the 2000 plus victims of violence is very real. They haven't done anything to improve Peace Corps.

I hope you are well "RPCV".

By daniel ( - on Saturday, February 28, 2004 - 10:31 am: Edit Post

Victor Carollo is a finalist at the School of Journalism at Harvard for an award on Ethics in Government. The general society knows these problems exist at Peace Corps and have for years. Thank god, they had an attorney to get that information Peace Corps would not share with the public, thus not improving the safety.

By Maria Ruatto ( - on Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - 3:49 pm: Edit Post

To Kim-
You're right - 1 in 3 women in the US has been or will be raped. Who will they blame? Who will they sue? The disgusting fact is that rape happens all too often in this world, and to suggest that because it's a Peace Corps volunteer who is raped it is the PEace Corps fault is akin to saying that the US government is at fault for every rape that takes place in the US. The truth ius this: The rapists are at fault. All the rest of us can do is try to protect ourselves in all the ways we do every day - having our keys out of our purses and ready BEFORE we walk into the deserted parking garage, not getting into cars with guys we don't know, etc. This is not to say that anyone who has been raped should have been able to avoid it, but the truth is that no one can protect us except ourselves, not the government, or the Peace Corps, or anyone else. Only we can, and sadly even that is all too often not enough.

By ROYCEEAVES@BELLSOUTH.NET ( - on Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 2:37 am: Edit Post


By Kelly ONeil PC Bolivia ( - on Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - 6:48 pm: Edit Post

Hello all! I have to say I am really shocked by some of the comments made here that attack our fellow RPCVs. We all have our own opinions and must treat one another with respect. If we cannot have compassion towards one another then what do we have? i am also shocked at the call for a woman to identity herself. If a woman who has been attacked chooses to remain anonymous then respect that.

I really feel for the victims of any form of assault or attack anywhere home or abroad. I remember women being raped in my country of service and for a period of time being petrified to go anywhere by myself, especially at night. Most of the attacks I knew of involved drinking on part of both parties. Don't get me wrong I am not blaming the victim but drinking puts people in dangerous situations. Date rape is common in the US, while gang rape is common in certain countries in Latin America.

As someone who was attacked in my own city(NYC) at age 15 and luckily got away before anthing happened... i know the fear. I still am afraid to this day to come home late by myself in NYC or anywhere for that matter but i keep on living and doing what i do. I try my best to be careful in the states just as in any other country. I agree with those of you who said that we are in just as much danger in our own country as in our country of service.

When you join the PC you know that you are taking a risk. I feel the safety issues were addressed during my training and I was somewhat prepared and prepped. Of course looking back i could think of improvements but no one and nothing is ever perfect. The Peace Corps can not be held responsible for the acts of violence against volunteers and an attack on the PC is not the answer. Sure improvements in safety should be made like the Peace Corps should not place volunteers in the same site that another volunteer was attacked in, the PC should give more in depth safety training, etc. However the PC cannot serve as a guardian angel over all its volunteers. You chose to become a volunteer and you know the risks.

I also do not believe that having a mandate to place 2 volunteers together in a site in the answer. The choice should be up to the volunteer him or herself. I was in a site in the countryside and I was very safe. Sure something could have happened to me but fortunately it didn't. I made friends with the women in my community who looked out for me. I would not have wanted to give up my experience to have another volunteer with me. For my scaredy cat self I am proud to say I lived in this town on my own and I was not afraid to live there on my own.
Having volunteers live with families is great and in areas where it is needed then fine place 2 volunteers there but lets not give up our right to choice. Placing volunteers in safe areas is key.

Anyhow just want to say that I loved my experience in Bolivia and despite the bad rapp it has recieved I believe it is one of the safest places to be in the Peace Corps. Of course certain areas are safer than others and its in the safer areas that volunteers should be placed. Sorry if I am repeating myself at this point I am tired. Take care all.

By Anonymous ( on Saturday, December 16, 2006 - 4:09 pm: Edit Post

hello iam just need from you to send me aformat of refugees human and with all the thing thanks

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