Matlosz informs on the world’s “Battered Women

Dylan Reed-Maxfield

Sylwia Matlosz, student organization liaison assistant for the Volunteer and Community Service Center, gave a brief informational presentation titled “Protection for the World’s Battered Women” in Riverview Lounge Monday. The presentation focused on women who escape violent abusers, often husbands, from whom their governments cannot or will not protect them, and seek protection by fleeing to other countries.
Matlosz began by sharing the story of Rodi Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman whose husband beat and raped her repeatedly over the first 10 years of their marriage, causing serious injuries. Alvarado sought help from the police and courts on multiple occasions, but was brushed aside. Like many other countries, Guatemala largely considers violence against women a “domestic,” or within-the-home issue, and thus does not acknowledge it as a problem requiring government attention. After an attempt at running away ended with Alvarado’s husband beating her unconscious, she decided to flee to the United States.
Matlosz went on to explain that once a fleeing woman like Rodi Alvarado has reached a foreign country, her main hope of staying there legally is to apply for political asylum as a refugee under the provisions of the 1951 Geneva Convention. However, since the convention did not establish gender as a reason someone could have to become a refugee, it has been rare for the victims of gender-based violence to be granted asylum; they typically are forced to apply as “members of a social group” that suffer persecution. Since courts have ruled that the social group must exist independently of the persecution, “battered women” is not a valid social group.
After initially being granted asylum, but then having it revoked by a higher court, Rodi Alvarado remains in the U.S. with her future in limbo. If she is deported, she faces returning to Guatemala, where her husband has said he will find her and kill her. Whatever decision is ultimately reached in Alvarado’s case is likely to have implications for the many other women who have and will come to the U.S. seeking refuge from domestic violence.
The presentation by Matlosz was one in a series of informational sessions on social justice issues to be sponsored by the VCSC. Specific dates have not been announced, but Matlosz said future Social Justice Series events will take place on Monday nights.