Entries in Kate Puzey (2)


Obama Signs Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama signed the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act Monday, less than a year after an ABC News investigation into the murder of the 24-year-old volunteer in Africa.

The act, which passed earlier this month in Congress, is designed to protect Peace Corps whistleblowers and improve the treatment of victims of violence and sexual assault.

The law is named for 24-year-old Kate Puzey of Georgia, who was murdered in Benin in 2009 after telling superiors she believed a fellow Peace Corps employee was molesting female students. In an investigation that aired on 20/20, ABC News told the story of Kate's murder and examined what critics say has been a "blame-the-victim" culture within the Peace Corps when volunteers are assaulted or attempt to report problems.

"It's such a wonderful thing. We're really, really happy this is happening," Kate's mother, Lois Puzey, told ABC News of the signing Monday. "It really has restored my faith in humankind and the fact that government can work."

Karestan Koenen, a former Peace Corps volunteer who was raped while serving in Niger in 1991, said she has been overwhelmed by the bill's success in government.

"We're fighters. We fought all along the way and were inspirations to each other," Koenen said of all the former volunteers who came forward. "I hope it will mean a change in the culture from one of victim blaming to one that embraces victims, supports them and treats them with respect and compassion."

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R.-Ga., and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, introduced the bill with a Capitol Hill press conference this summer.

Calling the day a "historic" one for Peace Corps volunteers, Isakson said, "May this new law honor the life of the remarkable young woman, Kate Puzey, as it ensures that the courageous young men and women who serve in the Peace Corps have the protections they rightly deserve."

The bill requires the Peace Corps to improve the training of volunteers to reduce sexual assault risk, would protect whistleblowers, and would require the Peace Corps to hire victims' advocates for each region the agency serves.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Peace Corps Director Apologizes to Family of Murder Victim

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images/Peace Corps[dot]gov(WASHINGTON) -- Director of the Peace Corps Aaron Williams, who for months had declined to be interviewed by ABC News about the murder of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey, issued a formal apology Puzey's family after Friday's three-part 20/20 report on Puzey's death and the Peace Corps response.

In a statement posted on the Peace Corps website Friday, Williams said he grieved with the Puzey family and extended an apology to them.

"I would like to offer my apologies to the Puzey family if either the former leadership or the agency under my direction could have been more compassionate," wrote Williams. "Personally, it is heartbreaking to learn that they ever felt abandoned by the Peace Corps. This has never been our intent."

"Kate represented the best America has to offer the world with her dedication to her community and commitment to public service," said Williams. "We continue to grieve with the Puzey family and Kate's friends."

Puzey died in Benin in 2009 shortly after she urged her country director to terminate the contract of a Peace Corps employee that she knew, according to her family and friends, had raped students and the school where she taught. Puzey was found with her throat slit and the Peace Corps employee, Constant Bio, is being held as the prime suspect in her murder.

Puzey's family told ABC News they felt the Peace Corps had helped cause her death because her suggestion that Bio be fired was not kept secret. The family also said the Peace Corps was not supportive or helpful in the months after her death as they tried to find out what happened to Kate .

In his statement, Williams said that the ABC News report was "deeply troubling and does not accurately reflect Peace Corps' unwavering commitment to our volunteers."

"The health and safety of our volunteers is the single most important priority for our agency," said Williams. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio