Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011

Despite All Its Accomplishments, It Is Not Without Scandals

From rape to assault and murder, the Peace Corps' history is marred by some serious scandals. In early 2011, the Corps came under fire after an ABC News-20/20 investigation found that more than 1,000 American women had been either raped or sexually assaulted while serving overseas in the Corps. Beyond that disturbing statistic, the victims who came forward claimed that the organization knew about the assaults, did nothing to help protect the women and went as far as to blame them for the attacks. The resulting media storm forced Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams to testify before Congress on the allegations, where he pledged to reform the agency. Additionally, more than 23 volunteers have been murdered throughout the Peace Corps' 50 years of operation. Most notably, in 1976, a volunteer named Deborah Gardner was brutally murdered by another volunteer, Dennis Priven, while they were working in Tonga. Priven confessed to the crime and went on trial in Tonga, where he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was released to the U.S., where after psychological consultation, it was determined that he was not schizophrenic, as his lawyer claimed, but suffered a "situational psychosis" after being rejected by Gardner. Priven went free shortly thereafter, a move many people claim that was made in an effort to save the organization's reputation.