I’m sure that for most people, joining the Peace Corps will be an enriching and fulfilling experience that enables them to advance themselves in life. At the same time, they are also making a difference in impoverished communities the world over. However, some of the women who make this commitment may end up becoming victims of sexual assault. I cannot help but notice that recent years have been filled with semi-frequent horror stories of Peace Corps workers, primarily female, being raped.
I have had the pleasure of sitting through two Peace Corps recruit attempts. The first Peace Corps recruiters that came to my Spanish class seemed pretty low-key. They gave a short speech, distributed the literature and that was that. Naturally, I mentioned the rape statistics to the girl I share a desk with, and she was somewhat surprised at what she was hearing from me.
The second group of recruiters could learn a thing or two from the first recruiters. Make a short and sweet speech. You never know when I might be lurking, waiting to inject a little objectivity into the discussion.
These recruiters came in full of gusto, and the speaker was a fantastic orator who made it seem like the Peace Corps is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The fellow asked the class in earnest what we knew about the Peace Corps. No one answered, and I did not take the bait.
The recruiter asked again, he practically begged us to tell him what we had heard about the Peace Corps. “ANYTHING!” he pleaded. In truth, the only thing stopping me was that there had been some heated moments in the class as a result of unrelated matters. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife, and I did not want to compound the situation by challenging the Peace Corps representative then and there.
Out of respect for my professor and fellow students, I chose to write this piece rather than start a petty, direct confrontation with an agent of the Federal Government.
Honestly, I would have loved nothing more than to rain on this fellow’s parade just out of general principal. You might ask, “Gee Mike, what is the general principal of this matter?” The principal is that the Peace Corps is under the umbrella of the federal government, and I feel like it’s my duty to check all agents of the federal government whenever an opportunity arises.
As a result, when I see a federal program that is really screwing up, I feel it is my civic duty to give the masses the ability to make an informed choice before potentially discovering these horrible truths the hard way.
That aside, I feel like people should go into something knowing all of the facts so that they can ask the right questions. Asking the right questions will also lead to better and more informed decisions. How can people go into this with an informed opinion if the only opinion they’ve heard is painting a picture that is all peaches and cream? At least, that’s the way the recruitment representatives painted the picture.
I simply ask you to type the following terms into Google: women, rape and Peace Corps. That’s what I did. One hit that came up on the first page was from ABC News, alleging that in the decade before 2011, more than 1000 American women had been raped or sexually assaulted while serving in the Peace Corps.
I encourage interested parties to do their own research so that they can come to their own conclusions without the help of Peace Corps representatives. The same Peace Corps that, according to the ABC News article, tried to cover up the gang rape of a woman stationed in Bangladesh in 2004.
Once again, I simply encourage you to type the aforementioned search parameters into Google and read the available news on the subject. It’s better to do the research now than to get excited about the whole endeavor and endure the buzz-kill that could be associated with finding these depressing things out after the fact.
This is not to say that I am completely against the Peace Corps. I just feel like it is not worth it to put yourself at such great risk. I also realize that this is one of those choices that’s high risk as well as high reward. The skills and connections made will, as I said before, undoubtedly be a worthwhile reward if you’re able to make it through the program unscathed. Especially if you are able to become fluent in a second language because of prolonged immersion in a radically different culture.
If you want to take the risk, go for it. Just make sure that you are aware of the potential consequences that might arise from your rolling of the dice.