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A Peace Corps Volunteer Turned Victim Of Rape

Karestan Koenen on her Peace Corps mission in Niger. (Courtesy: Karestan Koenen)

Karestan Koenen on her Peace Corps mission in Niger. (Courtesy: Karestan Koenen)

The Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The organization often advertises itself as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

For thousands of young volunteers, though, sexual assault was not among the hardships they thought they’d have to endure. Yet, attacks on Peace Corps volunteers have increased to the point where last week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs heard dramatic testimony from three former volunteers who were raped while on their Peace Corps postings.

One of those women is Karestan Koenen, an adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. In 1991, Keonen was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger where she was raped. She told the House committee that the calloused response of the Peace Corps was almost worse than the attack itself.

When she spoke with Radio Boston, Koenen recalled that a Peace Corps staff member investigating her case showed little sympathy:

“The first thing she said to me was, ‘Oh you girls go to these countries, and you’re out drinking and dancing and flirting with men and then when something happens you say you were raped’ … She basically said it was my fault.”

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