2011.05.09: May 9, 2011: South Africa RPCV Casey Frazee writes: I felt devoid of emotion and feeling, sucked out of me when I was sexually assaulted while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Sexual Assault and Harassment: Sexual Assault and Harassment: Newest Stories: 2011.05.09: May 9, 2011: South Africa RPCV Casey Frazee writes: I felt devoid of emotion and feeling, sucked out of me when I was sexually assaulted while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa

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South Africa RPCV Casey Frazee writes: I felt devoid of emotion and feeling, sucked out of me when I was sexually assaulted while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa

South Africa RPCV Casey Frazee writes: I felt devoid of emotion and feeling, sucked out of me when I was sexually assaulted while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa

I could move and walk and talk. But I couldn't feel. I couldn't connect to anyone. I had detached from the person I was when I began my Peace Corps journey. A journey I had hoped would be such a turnkey event in my life. A chance to live internationally, to do on-the-ground NGO work. Like Thoreau, I wanted to live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life. Maybe that was too idealistic, but I put so much of my life into being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Only to be let down by the system. This past March, the people I entered Peace Corps with, referred to as "SA19" -- the 19th group of Volunteers to enter Peace Corps South Africa -- held their Close of Service ceremony. They closed a chapter in their Peace Corps lives two short years after being inaugurated as Volunteers. They went on to jobs, travel, graduate school, and other ventures. But many survivors are unable to continue their service due to their assault, and we are thus robbed of this Close of Service experience. While this final ceremony was happening in South Africa, I was in the United States continuing my Peace Corps service in a different way. While the other SA19s can leave Peace Corps behind, my work with First Response Action keeps me entrenched in the Peace Corps community. Our board members are all former Volunteers, a mix of advocates and survivors, who all want the same thing: for Peace Corps Volunteer victims of crime to be better supported through legislation that cements their rights to services, legal advice, treatment, and confidentiality.

South Africa RPCV Casey Frazee writes: I felt devoid of emotion and feeling, sucked out of me when I was sexually assaulted while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa

Peace Corps Volunteer Speaks Out About Lacking Sexual Assault Response
by Casey Frazee May 09, 2011
Topics:

Sexual Assault

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I breathed in the fresh ocean air rolling up from the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean while standing on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. I was thousands of feet off the ground, gazing at one of the most marvelous sites in the world. Yet I felt devoid of emotion and feeling, sucked out of me when I was sexually assaulted while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa.

I remember thinking to myself that I was at a candidate for one of the wonders of the world and I didn't feel anything. I couldn't even crack a smile. What once came naturally to me now took so much force to muster that it wasn't worth it most times.

Being sexually assaulted changed who I was forever. That one act of betrayal. That one act of such an intimate violation. I now view the world through the lens of a survivor.

My attacker was part of my host family and he had harassed me for months. After being assaulted in June 2009, I discovered in the most difficult and personal way possible that Peace Corps had no global policy on how to manage incidents of sexual assault and rape. While most Peace Corps victims of assault or rape are kept in the country's capital while next steps are taken, my Country Director thought it would be more "productive" to send me out to visit Volunteers and help at their sites. Being a generally helpful and agreeable person, and having never been assaulted before, I thought this seemed reasonable. However, it led me down a path of increased PTSD symptoms, isolation, and breakdowns. I was left on my own to devolve in various locations throughout South Africa.

I could move and walk and talk. But I couldn't feel. I couldn't connect to anyone. I had detached from the person I was when I began my Peace Corps journey. A journey I had hoped would be such a turnkey event in my life. A chance to live internationally, to do on-the-ground NGO work. Like Thoreau, I wanted to live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life. Maybe that was too idealistic, but I put so much of my life into being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Only to be let down by the system.

I knew I wasn't alone. I heard from fellow Volunteers in South Africa about other women who had been sexually assaulted or raped. I decided to seize the day and dedicate the next stage in my life to rectifying what I saw as a staggering lack of preparedness to handle sexual assault and rape. I started First Response Action to advocate to Peace Corps for improved policies and protocol to respond more effectively to incidents of sexual violence.

Since then, I have heard from dozens of women and a few men who have experienced sexual or physical violence while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. Victim-blaming, misinformation, lack of Peace Corps staff knowledge, and hollow sexual assault training are key themes throughout the experiences of these dozens of Volunteers who have served over the last several decades and in countries around the world.

So here I sit, on the eve of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on sexual violence in the Peace Corps, reflecting on the last year and a half since I founded First Response Action.

This past March, the people I entered Peace Corps with, referred to as "SA19" -- the 19th group of Volunteers to enter Peace Corps South Africa -- held their Close of Service ceremony. They closed a chapter in their Peace Corps lives two short years after being inaugurated as Volunteers. They went on to jobs, travel, graduate school, and other ventures. But many survivors are unable to continue their service due to their assault, and we are thus robbed of this Close of Service experience.

While this final ceremony was happening in South Africa, I was in the United States continuing my Peace Corps service in a different way. While the other SA19s can leave Peace Corps behind, my work with First Response Action keeps me entrenched in the Peace Corps community. Our board members are all former Volunteers, a mix of advocates and survivors, who all want the same thing: for Peace Corps Volunteer victims of crime to be better supported through legislation that cements their rights to services, legal advice, treatment, and confidentiality.

I am fighting for future survivors, so they can receive an appropriate, compassionate, and informed response from Peace Corps. Peace Corps owes that to their Volunteers.

To support Casey and other Volunteers fighting for improved sexual violence response, sign the First Response Action petition to the Peace Corps here.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: May, 2011; Peace Corps South Africa; Directory of South Africa RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for South Africa RPCVs; Speaking Out; Sexual Assault and Harassment; Safety and Security of Volunteers





When this story was posted in May 2011, this was on the front page of PCOL:




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Congress Holds Hearings on Sexual Assault Date: May 15 2011 No: 1518 Congress Holds Hearings on Sexual Assault
Congress held hearings on the sexual assault of Peace Corps volunteers. Read the testimony of returned and current Peace Corps volunteers on how the problem is still ongoing, and not limited to any particular country or region. Director Williams says that "it has become apparent to me that the Peace Corps has not always been sufficiently responsive or sensitive to victims of crime and their families. I sincerely regret that." Read what the Peace Corps is doing to address the issue.

Peace Corps: The Next Fifty Years Date: March 8 2011 No: 1513 Peace Corps: The Next Fifty Years
As we move into the Peace Corps' second fifty years, what single improvement would most benefit the mission of the Peace Corps? Read our op-ed about the creation of a private charitable non-profit corporation, independent of the US government, whose focus would be to provide support and funding for third goal activities. Returned Volunteers need President Obama to support the enabling legislation, already written and vetted, to create the Peace Corps Foundation. RPCVs will do the rest.

March 1, 2011: The First PCVs Date: February 27 2011 No: 1495 March 1, 2011: The First PCVs
Bob Klein writes: First PCVs Arrive in Ghana 22 Feb
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Claudia Jayne teaches Sewing in Fiji 9 Feb
Michael Snarskis Discovered Ancient Civilizations 4 Feb
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Peter DiCampo takes Flashlight Portraits of Ghana 25 Jan
Lyn Wright Fogle says Learning new Language Transforms Us 25 Jan
Shanti A. Parikh Examines Structures of Gender Inequality 21 Jan
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How Volunteers Remember Sarge Date: January 18 2011 No: 1487 How Volunteers Remember Sarge
As the Peace Corps' Founding Director Sargent Shriver laid the foundations for the most lasting accomplishment of the Kennedy presidency. Shriver spoke to returned volunteers at the Peace Vigil at Lincoln Memorial in September, 2001 for the Peace Corps 40th. "The challenge I believe is simple - simple to express but difficult to fulfill. That challenge is expressed in these words: PCV's - stay as you are. Be servants of peace. Work at home as you have worked abroad. Humbly, persistently, intelligently. Weep with those who are sorrowful, Care for those who are sick. Serve your wives, serve your husbands, serve your families, serve your neighbors, serve your cities, serve the poor, join others who also serve," said Shriver. "Serve, Serve, Serve. That's the answer, that's the objective, that's the challenge."

PCV Murder Investigated Date: January 18 2011 No: 1477 PCV Murder Investigated
ABC News has investigated the murder of Benin PCV Kate Puzey. Read our original coverage of the crime, comments on Peace Corps actions, the email Puzey sent her country director about sexual incidents with Puzey's students and with another PCV, the backstory on how RPCVs helped the Puzey family, and Peace Corps' official statement. PCOL Editorial: One major shortcoming that the Puzey murder highlights is that Peace Corps does not have a good procedure in place for death notifications.

Join Us Mr. President! Date: June 26 2009 No: 1380 Join Us Mr. President!
"We will double the size of the Peace Corps by its 50th anniversary in 2011. And we'll reach out to other nations to engage their young people in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity," said Barack Obama during his campaign. Returned Volunteers rally and and march to the White House to support a bold new Peace Corps for a new age. Latest: Senator Dodd introduces Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009 .



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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - South Africa; Speaking Out; SA; Safety

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