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Entries in Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act (1)

Monday
Nov212011

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







ABC News Radio