As a white male returned Peace Corps volunteer (Nepal 1987-1989), I dealt with issues of isolation, malnutrition, privacy, loneliness, and harassment...
My future wife (left) with a fellow PC Nepal volunteer who endured way more scary situations than I ever had to.
But I never had to deal with the many types of uncomfortable and dangerous situations that my female counterparts had to endure on a regular basis!
Female volunteers as a group represent the best of our US culture, intelligent, motivated, and hard working; and as a group they often minimized how often they were left alone, attacked, and violated during their daily activities. The women volunteers I worked with almost always tried to travel with someone else to avoid vulnerable situations and to provide for their safety--- I never felt like they were scared--I always got the impression that they just thought it would eliminate hassles. In Nepal and in 1987, to travel alone as a single US female was considered a great personal risk.
Peace Corps service is kind of a media darling in that it garners many "feel good" stories in the US and abroad... and many volunteers do have an overall wonderful and profoundly positive life changing experience. However, many female volunteers also experience sexual harassment and violence that they never anticipated and there is often too little medical or emotional support within the Peace Corps system to help them after they have been assaulted.
I met my future wife and fellow volunteer when I agreed to accompany her out to her post partly because she did not like to travel alone on buses (especially 'night buses'- these were all night trips across Nepal that left female travelers vulnerable to predatory men) and in situations where the volunteer often felt helpless and isolated.
An excerpt from womensissues.about.com (2011): Women in Peace Corps - Rape, Sexual Assault in Peace Corps - Are Women Safe?
Over 1,000 Cases of Rape, Sexual Assault Have Been Reported in the Past Decade
By Linda Lowen
Since its founding in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has appealed to idealists and humanitarians who dream of living and working in an underdeveloped nation helping locals improve their lives. It's a dream that attracts a predominantly white population and draws many more women than men: 74% of Peace Corp Volunteers are Caucasian, 60% are female, 85% are younger than 30, 95% are single, and the majority are recent college grads.
It is precisely these women -- young, in their early-to-mid 20s, single -- that are at greatest risk, and there's ample evidence that the Peace Corps has routinely ignored the dangers and downplayed the rapes, assaults, and even deaths of volunteers so as not to tarnish the iconic Peace Corps image.
In 2009, the most recent year reported, 69% of Peace Corp crime victims were women, 88% were under 30, and 82% were Caucasian. In 2009, 15 cases of rape/attempted rape and 96 cases of sexual assault were reported for a total of 111 sexual crimes committee against female PCVs.
Throughout the history of Peace Corps over 25% of the volunteers who dedicated their lives to at least two years of service and made it to their country of service, have early terminated, unfortunately, this % includes many wonderful women who endured acts of sexual abuse that the Peace Corps all too often tries to ignore.Top to bottom pictures: Rooftop close of service party for the six out of fourteen volunteers that made it through our entire 2+ year service commitment (I'm second from the left wearing the colorful hat); Second picture is of me and a fellow 3+ year volunteer demonstrating that no matter how much you eat you will still probably weigh less than you did in high school; The bottom picture is of my lovely wife performing a bai tika ceremony with her "little brother"
Sadly, in Nepal- most of my group did in fact "Early Terminate", and two of the terminations, that I know of, involved sexual assaults. the last picture with my wife and her little brother is meant to reflect the fact that most Nepali men are of wonderful and decent character and the fact that cretins exist in our world, does not infer that most men are cretins.