Battered Iranian Immigrant Women and the Ineffectiveness of U.S. Antiviolence Remedies
Volume 88, No. 2, Winter 2016
By Samar Aryani-Sabet, J.D. Candidate, Temple University Beasley School of Law, 2016 [PDF]

Violence against women plagues millions of women and children around the world every year. Studies have shown that up to seventy percent of women are victims in their lifetimes. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” The most prevalent form of violence is abuse perpetrated by an intimate partner.

Although violence against women occurs around the globe, it is even worse in societies that have entrenched structural discrimination against women. Sex stereotypes that portray men as “strong, independent, reasonable, and aggressive,” and women as “weak, dependent, emotional, and passive,” are used to justify male violence.

Iran is one such country where “[t]he patriarchal structure, cultural traditions and religious edicts . . . create a climate in which women are seen as men’s property and domestic violence thus becomes an accepted expression of male dominance.” Accordingly, most victims are forced to endure the abuse and live in silence. While an increasing number of countries are implementing laws combating violence against women, Iran refuses to join their ranks.

In contrast, the United States (U.S.) is one country that has implemented laws against domestic violence. Not only is domestic violence a chargeable offense, but federal and local governments have also enacted legislation to ban violence, and antiviolence advocates have created institutions to support victims. The U.S. has gone so far as to extend these remedies, such as the U Nonimmigrant Visa (U Visa) and the Violence Against Women Act self-petition (VAWA self-petition), to protect battered immigrant and nonimmigrant women who come to the U.S.

This Comment focuses on whether these U.S.-created remedies for noncitizen women protect Iranian victims who immigrate to the U.S. More specifically, this Comment explores the following questions: What happens to battered Iranian women who immigrate to the U.S. with their abusive partners? Do these women know they are victims of a crime? Do they know of the legal resources available in the U.S. that can protect them from abuse? Are the legal antiviolence resources in the U.S. reaching these victims?