CU archives inform examination of state violence, repression in El Salvador

Published: Feb. 1, 2013

Michele Leiby, assistant professor of political science from the College of Wooster, Ohio will present “Bad Apples or Bad Leaders: Explaining State Repression and Sexual Violence in El Salvador” Thursday, Feb. 7. The talk is from 12:30-1:45 p.m. in IBS 155 (Institute of Behavioral Science, 1440 15th Street).

Leiby’s research is based on a comparison of data collected from two Salvadoran human rights organizations and housed in the University of Colorado Boulder Archives. She identified the timing and locations of various forms of state violence and compiled a demographic profile of the victims. This research, one of only two quantitatively-oriented analyses of first-hand accounts of sexual violence during the civil war, demonstrates many of the limitations of data on wartime sexual violence and makes an important contribution to the academic literature on wartime sexual violence as well as to the historical record of violence in El Salvador.

The CU-Boulder Libraries El Salvador Archive holdings are from five Salvadorian non-governmental agencies and include photos, films, and case studies of civil war atrocities, such as sexual violence, disappearances, and extra-legal executions. The same materials were consulted during the United Nations investigation into the human rights crisis and provided evidence used by the U.N. Truth Commission as part of the El Salvador peace accords.

Leiby concludes through her examination of patterns of state-perpetrated sexual violence and other political violence during the civil war in El Salvador (1978-1992), that sexual violence is not perpetrated randomly, but rather targeted against particular subgroups within the population who present a real or imagined threat to the regime.

On Friday, Feb. 8 from 12-1:30 p.m. in the Gates Woodruff Cottage Library, Leiby will participate in a panel discussion on “Unearthing the El Salvador Human Rights Archive.” Asuncion Horno-Delgado of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, who will address using the Archive for class projects, will join her.  In addition, Bruce Montgomery and Yolanda Maloney of CU-Boulder Archives and Special Collections will discuss “How the World’s Largest El Salvador Human Rights Archive was Built,” describing their travels to a war-ravaged land to gain access to the secret archives of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, founded by Oscar Romero before his 1980 assassination.

These events are sponsored by the University of Colorado Boulder Latin American Studies Center, University Libraries, the Department of Political Science and Women and Gender Studies Program.

For more information contact Lorraine Bayard de Volo, UCB Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies and Director, Latin American Studies Center at  Also see