Former Peace Corps volunteer sheds light on the issue of sexual assault

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by NATASHA RYAN / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 19, 2011 at 10:46 PM

SEATTLE -- Last week the nation watched as rape victims talked about the Peace Corps ignoring and sometimes hiding the crime. This week we spoke to a Seattle woman who knows a rape victim.

Tracey Lake loved her time in Honduras. While there she became a part of the community, her host family even adopting her as one of their own. "They made this sign for me. It says Tracey Martinez." Martinez was their last name.

She says she never felt unsafe and got used to listening to the needs of the community and the community's leaders. Later, she listened to something else, stories from fellow volunteers about what they experienced. One woman was drinking with her host father and couldn't remember how she got from that moment to this one.

Tracey tells us, "She woke up aware of being raped in the back of a pickup truck. She closed her eyes and said oh my God, this can't be happening, opened her eyes again and it was finished."

Tracey says she empathizes with the victims but says everyone she knew that had been victimized broke one of the rules. Specifically two, the first, no drinking. The second, not to go out at night. She says alcohol a problem. She also believes it's a heavy burden for a twenty-something to understand the risk of breaking the rules. However, she says the Peace Corps did a lot to ensure their safety. 

Tracey calls the training extensive and says they played out many scenarios to teach people how to handle all types of situations. One situation that was not addressed was rape.

"I was part of a training team that helped train people coming in after me and I didn't train anybody on what to do if you were raped." She says because volunteers are placed in rural towns, there are no rape kits. Tracey told us she'd be surprised if even the big cities hours away had rape kits. 

She hopes future volunteers aren't discouraged because she had a wonderful experience. " A truck drives by and I hear "Hola Tracey!" and it brought tears to my eyes because I had been gone like six or seven months."

Peace Corps leaders say new policies are in place, so victims voices are never drowned out again.

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