Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches



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Mr. Speaker, I want to address an important issue that has come to light recently. It has to do with the wonderful group of volunteers that serve in the United States Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps was the idea of John F. Kennedy. He went to the University of Michigan way back in 1960, and he started encouraging those college students to get involved in other countries and helping those countries in their social development and their cultural development in the name of peace. A wonderful idea.

When he became President in 1961, President Kennedy signed an Executive order establishing the now important Peace Corps. By 1966, there were over 15,000 young Americans, all volunteers, that were working in the Peace Corps throughout the world.

Since those early days of the Peace Corps, 200,000 Americans, mostly young people, 60 percent female, have volunteered for their two year service in the Peace Corps to work in Third World countries on everything from health to farming to small business, just helping other people throughout the world in a way that not only benefits them personally but benefits the recipients in these foreign countries. They really are, in my opinion, along with our United States military, the greatest ambassadors we have from our country to show that we are concerned about the welfare of other nations. And they help build a better life for not only the people that they come in contact with, but their generations and the children that they have as well. I think they are really volunteer angels.

The work that a Peace Corps volunteer does is hard work. It's important, but it's very difficult. They're in a place far from home, sometimes very remote and primitive areas, and yet they, on a daily basis, are working to improve the lives of these individuals.

Like I said, I think it's one of the best things that we do in this country as ambassadors are those young people in the Peace Corps. It's tough work. It's hard work. I wouldn't do it. It's so difficult. And you know, there are people in our country, a lot of them mainly young people who choose that as a calling to help other people in other countries.

I've got four kids, and they're all kind of wanting to save the world, too. They've been to Mexico and lived in orphanages in Trinidad. They've been to Honduras. They've been to Africa and Zambia, all with that mentality of helping other people.

But the Peace Corps volunteers are people like that who spend at leasttwo years in service to their country. And sometimes when they are in those foreign countries, they stick out. They are noticeable by the people who live in that country.Because of that, occasionally, more often than it should be, they attract crimes that occur against them. That is the issue, Mr. Speaker, I want to address tonight.

Over the lastten years, 1,000 Americans, mainly women, have been sexually assaulted, raped or assaulted in some other way, in a foreign country representing the United States in the Peace Corps.

Between 2000 and 2009, the Peace Corps themselves say there were over 221 rapes and attempted rapes, almost 150 major sexual attacks, and 700 other sexual assaults. Sexual assault is anything from groping to fondling to conduct that is offensive to that Peace Corps volunteer. Once again, 1,000 crimes against AmericanPeace Corps volunteers. Recently, the Peace Corps has announced that there is an average of 22 rapes a year against American Peace Corps volunteers.

This is not acceptable, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about real people. They are real stories and they are real victims, and I want to mention just a few of those tonight in the limited time that I have.

The first of those is a person that I have gotten to know personally. A wonderful person, Jess Smochek.

She joined