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Punished for fleeing abuse

CONTENT NOTE: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE; FORCED SEPARATION OF MOTHER AND CHILD

Nan-Hui Jo, a South Korean woman, came to the US to study. She met her former partner, Jesse Charlton, and had a child with him, a little girl named Vitz Da. And in 2009, after suffering repeated violence and abuse, in an effort to save herself and her daughter, Jo took her child and went back to South Korea. Charlton sent her threats, including one of employing a “nasty bounty hunter,” and publicly admitted his violent abuse of his former partner, including that he grabbed her around the throat and threw her against a wall.

Upon her return to the US in 2014 (nothing I’ve found has said why), Jo was immediately arrested and separated from her daughter. She was tried for child abduction and the trial resulted in a hung jury. The DA has opted for a retrial, ignoring the violence and abuse to which Charlton subjected Jo. And even if she is found not guilty, she will be subject to immediate deportation and thus continued separation from the daughter she tried to protect.

This case is at the crossroads of so many of the important challenges facing feminism today: the racism and xenophobia towards a foreign woman of color, who is being accused of trying to use Charlton for a green card (never mind that she fled back to South Korea); the lack of options facing women, particularly those who are not US citizens, in escaping abuse; the incredibly high rates of abuse incarcerated women have experienced; the persecution of women who attempt action to save themselves and their children from abuse; the refusal of our legal system to recognize that a man who abuses the mother of his children is no fit parent. It seems to me that, as with the case of Marissa Alexander, we as feminists need to support Nan-Hui Jo and make crystal clear the traps she has been caught in.

More details can be found here, at the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse’s site.
A Facebook page in support of Nan-Hui Jo can be found here.

Here is a Tumblr feed giving a play-by-play of what is happening in the courtroom.

Various actions and petitions can be found at these sites.


92 thoughts on Punished for fleeing abuse

  1. I support her accusations of domestic violence and I hope her abuser is charged. I hope you will reconsider your stance in support of her abducting the child.

    First of all, she’s not getting in trouble because she was abused. She’s getting in trouble because she unilaterally took her kid away from the father, for five years.

    I assume he abused her. But domestic abusers usually retain their parental rights. Heck, even child abusers can sometimes retain their parental rights. Making that call–what rights you have, and how you can exercise them–is why we have judges.

    So: she’s getting in trouble because she didn’t use any of the established procedures to help children or adults who are being abused, including (a) calling DSS; (b) filing restraining orders; (c) reporting the allegations of abuse to the police; and/or (d) generally putting the very-important issue before one of the many places which we have set up to do just that.

    She’s getting in trouble because instead of using those things, she left with the child, and took the child out of the country, without the permission of the other parent.

    She’s getting in trouble because even once she was in a situation where she could catch her breath–you can call DSS and lawyers and police departments from South Korea, without much trouble–she still took five years to agree to bring the child back home.

    That isn’t how our system is supposed to work. She can’t make that call on her own, any more than he can. The kid needed to get in front of a judge. There is no exception to that rule–and there should not be one–because NO parent should have the right to spontaneously claim 100% unilateral rights over a shared child, absent a court ruling. That’s why almost all divorce and restraining orders put serious restrictions on the ability of one parent to run out of country with the kid, in the first place.

    1. But domestic abusers usually retain their parental rights.

      That’s not a justification for the way she’s being treated. That’s part of the fucking problem.

      Further, I disagree. What you describe is the way things are, not necessarily the way they should be. I strongly disagree that no parent has the right to make that unilateral decision. When one parent is violent, the other has not only the right but the obligation to do whatever is necessary to get themselves and their child to a place of safety as soon as possible.

      Seriously, she should have stayed so that a judge could refuse to terminate her violent ex’s parental rights and she would be forced to hand her daughter over to a maniac? Fuck that.

      As far as I am concerned, the only thing she did wrong was to come back.

      1. But domestic abusers usually retain their parental rights.

        That’s not a justification for the way she’s being treated. That’s part of the fucking problem.

        Domestic abuse is a nasty and horrible thing. But domestic abuse spans a scale. Some things deserve a restraining order and a misdemeanor charge; some things deserve years of jail time. Most don’t result in unusually high punishments, such as “lose your parental rights permanently.” And all of them require a hearing.

        Shit, even if you did support that outcome, do you seriously support it without process, just a single parent acting alone? And let me ask this: You and I both know that although it’s comparatively rare, there are certainly some women who smack their partners. Are you saying that you support those people–as of the first blow–permanently losing custody of their kids without a hearing? To their husbands? No divorce, no court, no filings, no testimony, nothing? That’s bloody ridiculous, EG.

        Either we live in a society which has rules or we don’t. Only one of those leads to a reasonable outcome.

        Don’t assume all those folks will be women and certainly don’t assume that they’ll all be abuse victims! Do you want some dude grabbing the kids and decamping to Europe, claiming that his wife beat him? No proof required, right? Sucks for her that your rules protect him, and that she doesn’t get a hearing to challenge it, but so long as he says “i feared for my safety” I guess he’ll get your support at least…. That’s what happens when you make “first to grab the kids and accuse wins” the rule of the day.

        When one parent is violent, the other has not only the right but the obligation to do whatever is necessary to get themselves and their child to a place of safety as soon as possible.

        Who is disputing that? Leave if you have to, short term. Get a RO. Move to a temporary shelter. File anonymously for whatever you want. It is obvious that the right thing for this woman was not to see the husband again. That’s a call she can make on her own.

        But that is short term, not long term. It isn’t obvious that the right thing for this kid was never to be exposed to her father again–and I mean never, not even in paid, safe, supervised visitation for an hour every other week, with the promise that it can be two hours after a couple of years of counseling and drug testing, and…. That ISN’T a call she can make on her own. It needs a judge. And it needs a guardian ad litem, who gets appointed to advocate for the kid’s interest and talk to shrinks and so on. Otherwise it is too hard to separate the mother’s interests from the kid’s interests.

        1. Either we live in a society which has rules or we don’t. Only one of those leads to a reasonable outcome.

          It’s strange to me that you completely ignored EG’s point, which is that sometimes the rules are wrong. As written, right now, where you are obligated to return a child to their violent parent, they are wrong. Frankly, I think anyone who believes otherwise is ethically bankrupt.

      2. Seriously, she should have stayed so that a judge could refuse to terminate her violent ex’s parental rights and she would be forced to hand her daughter over to a maniac? Fuck that.

        As far as I am concerned, the only thing she did wrong was to come back.

        So if I want to take my (hypothetical) kid and leave the country as a way to hurt my ex-wife who I don’t like much, and I make sure to accuse her of abuse first. How is the legal system you envision going to address that situation? Because from a public policy perspective, the position you’re taking would lead to the de facto abolition of the laws surrounding child custody/child abduction, as long as there’s a pro forma accusation of abuse first.

        1. Publicly accused, and your ex-wife, whom you hate, admitted to beating the shit out of you. That’s a strange detail to overlook.

        2. Publicly accused, and your ex-wife, whom you hate, admitted to beating the shit out of you. That’s a strange detail to overlook.

          Which would be great evidence in a hearing, except there never was one, because I kidnapped the kid instead (in this hypothetical scenario).

          By the way, where can I find this public admission? People keep referring to it, but I read all the links and did my own Googling, and I don’t see anything. Not that I don’t believe it exists, I’m just finding it odd.

        3. Thanks, I’ll see if I can dig up a transcript. Assuming that’s true (and to be clear, I really am not saying otherwise), the obvious legal remedy would be to use said sworn testimony as evidence in a custody hearing. Unfortunately, the kidnapping case will probably make that case really hard to win. I hope the organizations behind her are helping hire a good lawyer; I’m also going to see if I can find somewhere people can donate.

      3. I agree with your points completely EG. Having been through the Australian Family Court system trying to keep my kids safe from someone who admitted to serious and ongoing domestic abuse, I can confirm that our legal system at least is completely inadequate at protecting all victims of domestic violence, especially children. The system is beyond broken. The amount of times serious concerns of abuse were completely waved aside in my case and those of close friends is too many to count. Being unable to protect your child from a person that it took you everything you had in order to escape from is terrifying.

    2. “(a) calling DSS; (b) filing restraining orders; (c) reporting the allegations of abuse to the police; and/or (d) generally putting the very-important issue before one of the many places which we have set up to do just that.”

      These things do not work. They just don’t. She had no reason to believe she would be believed and her partner would actually face consequences. Maybe going to the embassy would have helped maybe. But your not understanding domestic violence.

      The purpose of the child abduction laws is to prevent abuse and increase child welfare. You can’t argue the child wasn’t better off.
      I respect the law but the jury was hung for a reason.

    3. This article missed a few important points.

      1. She was abusive towards the child and threw the child at the father causing the child’s head to collide with the the fathers face. No one seems concerned about child abuse. Why?

      2. She was a pro at claiming abuse. She claimed her husband she married in 2005 abused her. She did not meet her baby’s father until 2007.

      3. She abducted the child to a foreign country that was beyond the reach of the law.

      1. 1) I looked at the first few pages of google hits and saw nothing to indicate this. Citation?

        2) Yeah, gee, she’s a “pro.” Everybody knows that once you’re in a relationship with one abusive man, it can never happen to you again. It’s like vaccination, right?

        3) I don’t care.

        Basically, of your three concerns, the only one that would sway me is the first, and given that I did do some research here, I want a citation before I take the say-so of somebody who apparently believes that it’s beyond the pale of possibility that the same woman could be abused by two different men over the course of a few years.

  2. How silly of a student from another country to not understand the intricacies of US marital law. Clearly she should have been more well informed while fleeing from her child’s violently abusive father.

    1. intricacies of US marital law

      Is “you can’t take your kid away from their father for five years without their permission” really:

      1) intricate
      2) specific to the US?

    2. I think you’re mixing up two things.

      Nobody here is seriously protesting her initial decision to run away. Sure, I think it would have been better to try the system out, but whatever she did she did. That was fine.

      However, she wasn’t running away for five years. Once she was obviously safe–which is to say “once she was in another country where he can’t find her or reach her” then she had ample opportunity (and the obligation) to deal with this properly.

      I’ve seen this happen (not this in particular, but similar things like moving to a different state.) Sometimes parents do something outside the law. If they fix it on demand, then the court tends to look over it. It was her refusal to follow the law for five years which got her in trouble, not her initial actions.

      1. Did you not read the full piece? He continued to harass her once she reached Korea, mostly by email and threatening to hire a bounty hunter and/or people inside Korea who could get her for him. She was never safe from him. You seem to be operating under some impression that borders are some kind of sacrosanct force field that would prevent her from coming to any harm, and that weakens your actual argument, which isn’t totally without merit.

        1. From a judge’s perspective, I’m not sure that threatening to hire a bounty hunter is a sign of DV. If someone stole my kid, I might do the same thing. Of course, it’s also kinda incoherent anyways since bounty hunters apprehend fugitives who’ve escaped on bail, they don’t just go flying around to foreign countries kidnapping people.

        2. Uh, from my understanding, the tone of the emails wasn’t exactly very nice and sent the message that she needed to be afraid.

          And also, wouldn’t telling her you were hiring a person to come get her sort of defeat the purpose? The whole point of bounty hunting is that the target doesn’t know you’re coming.

          You’re reaching pretty far to try to make excuses here that any of this was anything other than abuse.

        3. No, I absolutely believe she was abused, because I generally default to believing accusers. I just don’t think sending angry e-mails to someone who stole your child is evidence of said abuse, and it’s probably not productive to act otherwise. If someone kidnapped my kid, the e-mails I sent probably wouldn’t be super nice either.

          Also, let’s again note there’s no such thing as a bounty hunter who you can hire to go kidnap people from other countries for you. Bounty hunters recover fugitives who jumped bail, and get a portion of the bail money as payment (thus, bounty hunters).

        4. Ludlow, the evidence of abuse is the sworn testimony of abuse the ex gave on the stand. I feel like you’re being slightly obtuse at this point because you seem bent on not getting it.

          Even IF her arrest was proper when she re-entered the US, why is she still on trial? Once the ex got up and admitted to grabbing her by the throat and throwing her against the wall, that should have been the end.

          And that abuse happened during her initial stay in America. That abuse was WHY she fled in the first place. So when the abusive ex started sending her emails threatening to send people to Korea to bring her back, hell yes she knew it was abusive because the guy had already abused her in the past. If somebody who threw me into a wall started emailing me threatening to bring me back by force, I’m taking that as abusive and threatening. I could give a rat’s ass what the legal system might consider that evidence of. Although I would question any judge who couldn’t hear sworn evidence of abuse and then hear about emails and not put them together.

          (And also, BTW, in this case it’s not the judge making determinations anyway – she received a jury trial). So you might want to be accurate with your terms.

        5. Ludlow, the evidence of abuse is the sworn testimony of abuse the ex gave on the stand. I feel like you’re being slightly obtuse at this point because you seem bent on not getting it.

          Buhwha? We’re not talking about if there was any evidence of abuse. You can tell that because I wrote, right at the top of my post where it’s super easy to read:

          No, I absolutely believe she was abused

          I was responding to the discussion surrounding the e-mail he sent, and whether that could be constituted as further evidence of abuse. That’s also super clear from my post.

          Even IF her arrest was proper when she re-entered the US, why is she still on trial? Once the ex got up and admitted to grabbing her by the throat and throwing her against the wall, that should have been the end.

          And maybe it will be? We don’t know, because the jury hasn’t come back yet.

          You can’t possibly be under the misapprehension that trials stop when compelling evidence is introduced, as opposed to when all that evidence is evaluated by the jury, right?

        6. Yeah, I think either you’re obtuse now or just really lacking any background reading.

          This is her SECOND trial. Her first trial ended with a hung jury. It was during her first trial that her ex testified that yes, he did in fact abuse her. So this is already 100% known. The prosecution, knowing this, still chose to proceed with a second trial. That is the whole damn issue.

  3. This is heartbreaking. She wanted to protect herself and her daughter so she fled home to safety, only to be dragged back to hell by the authorities who were supposedly there to protect her. Vitz Da, the daughter, is currently in the custody of her abusive father, and is denied contact with her mother who is in jail. I need to go find one of those heavy hanging bags to punch right now.

      1. Your ridicule and callousness are unnecessary, and it gives me the impression that you have no interest in engagement, at least not why me anyway.

        1. Wait, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that to be ridiculing anyone. I meant that it seemed like an instance in which a generally reasonable law (i.e. no stealing, no kidnapping) is being resulting in sanctions against someone who had a pretty good reason for violating it (feeding their family, or protecting their kid from abuse).

          Really sorry that came across as callous and rude, I meant it totally sincerely.

        2. Oh, I completely misinterpreted your comment. Sorry for that. I send a lot of time around assholes so maybe I imagine the worse.

  4. Would someone please explain to me what public policy option they’d prefer? As in, specifically, how you’d change the laws surrounding kidnapping? I assume you can imagine why it would be slightly problematic to set things up such that, upon accusing your partner of abuse, you can just grab your kid and run to another country without any further legal involvement.

    These are not rhetorical questions. I wholeheartedly support this woman and other survivors of abuse (including myself), but the pro-child-abduction stance here is really weird.

    1. Well, for one, why not have a law that says that if allegations of abuse can be substantiated at any time, up to and including during a trial for kidnapping, such charges must be rescinded? Remove prosecutorial discretion.

      That is the problem here. I can understand everything up until the first trial. When the ex got on the stand and testified that, yes, he did in fact grab her by the throat and slam her up against the wall, in my mind, that would end the trial, right there. He’s admitting under oath that, why yes, she did have good reason to fear for her life and, by extension, the child’s life. In my mind, that negates the kidnapping.

      The travesty here is not that the law initially worked as its supposed to. The travesty is that women who have substantiated incidences of abuse have no legal shield. In this case, we are no longer discussing alleged abuse – it’s established abuse. He admits it. There is no longer any “if” to the abuse in this case. And there is still no law on the books to protect her. And yes, that needs to change.

    2. Another point: in most states in the US, a woman can be charged with homicide if she knows her partner has a history of abuse, either towards her or a child, and if she permits her child to remain in the custody or care of the abuser.

      So if Nan-Hui Jo has remained in the US and permitted her ex to continue to have contact with the daughter and he had abused the daughter or killed their daughter (a scenario that is sadly likely to occur at some point), then the legal system would be coming after her once again, but this time it would be because she “failed as a mother” and did not “get her child away from that monster.”

      She could not have won no matter what she did here.

      1. I have never heard of depraved indifference homicide being charged in anything close to these facts. Do you have any examples?

      2. Another point: in most states in the US, a woman can be charged with homicide if she knows her partner has a history of abuse, either towards her or a child, and if she permits her child to remain in the custody or care of the abuser.

        Cite, please?

      3. This is a Buzzfeed investigation that highlights a few women who have gone to prison under the “enabling child abuse” statutes that most states have.

        In a majority of states (29) the law permits for a “serious” sentence (which is normally 10+ years). The laws vary in their language, but generally they provide that if a mother knows her child is being abused or is at substantial risk of abuse, she has a legal duty to remove the child from the home (which usually means removing herself as well). If she fails to do so, she can go to prison if the child comes to any actual harm.

        Some of the women were actually present during the abuse and failed to stop it. But others were not – they merely allowed their child to continue to live with somebody who eventually harmed the child. Some of them knew of prior incidents of child abuse and others did not. Some of them failed to take their child to a doctor after the child was injured. It varies. But the point is that if Nan Hui Jo had stayed and her ex had would up injuring their daughter (and statistically, he would have), then she could be on trial for that as well.

    3. I’d second Drahil. That substantiated abuse should provide a legal shield for fleeing with the child.

      And add that citizens of other countries need to have the right to return home. Especially, if the child has dual citizenship. She probably rightly feared being separated from the child and the abusive parent gaining custody which happened.

      1. I’d second Drahil. That substantiated abuse should provide a legal shield for fleeing with the child.

        100%. Alara Rodgers made the point very eloquently downthread.

  5. I understand people’s concerns about setting bad precedents and slippery slopes and all that, but there’s something that doesn’t sit at all well with me about expecting someone in Nan-Hui Jo’s position — who knew that her husband abused and threatened her (probably in her daughter’s presence), and knew that she had good reason to fear for her own and her daughter’s lives — to subordinate their own safety to the interests of hypothetical strangers in hypothetical circumstances involving false accusations fabricated for purposes of justifying a kidnapping. (Remember that according to the linked article, her husband has admitted that he physically abused her.)

    I’m sure we would all be breathing a sigh of relief for the preservation of good precedent if she had remained in the USA, gone through “proper legal channels,” and she and /or her daughter had been murdered by her husband, as so many women and children have been in the past.

    1. I agree. I don’t think she did anything wrong (I also have incredibly limited information about this case, which is one of the many good reasons I’m not in charge of deciding it). I also am OK with the fact that it’s against the law to kidnap your kid even if you accuse your partner of abuse before you do it.

      How do you propose we change the law? This isn’t rhetorical, it’s an actual non-snarky question, because I don’t see the alternative you and some of the other posters clearly do.

      1. To be honest, I consider that question to be along the lines of “Where will we find the money in the budget,” to which I always reply, “That’s not my problem.” Nobody’s paying me to research the issues and draft legislation, and more importantly, nobody in power cares what I suggest, though I would begin by automatically terminating parental rights for domestic abusers.

        What I would advocate legislators doing is to convene a working group involving advocates for victims of domestic violence and survivors from the various groups that are supporting Nan-Hui Jo, such as KACEDA, and ask them to use their expertise to explain what needs to be done legislatively to protect women like Nan-Hui Jo who are seeking sanctuary and safety for themselves and their children, and how to do it in a way that is sensitive to and respects various cultural differences.

        But that’s only part of what needs to be done–as I said, I think this case is at the confluence of many problems, and one of the biggest is the fact that as a society, we just don’t care enough to devote many resources to thwart domestic violence and provide help to anybody suffering from it. Jo was an immigrant and a student–I think we should make discussion of domestic violence, what it is, how/why it is unacceptable, what resources there are for victims of DV who need help (and we need to make and fund more resources), resources on changing behavior and managing anger if you’re a perpetrator, part and parcel of immigration services. And that information should be made part and parcel of student orientation services. Jo was pregnant and gave birth–her ob-gyn should have been screening for DV, and even if ze failed to catch it, should have provided that information as a matter of course. Resources need to be developed and funded with KACEDA and other culturally specific groups so that they will be available in a variety of languages and fit with a variety of cultural traditions, and they need to be funded.

        Charlton is a vet. The military is another opportunity to provide information about DV, what it is, how it’s wrong, resources if you’re a victim, resources on changing behavior and managing anger if you’re a perpetrator, etc.

        But our society doesn’t care to invest that kind of effort, energy, and money, to help women, particularly foreign women, particularly foreign women of color. And here we are. But the law regarding parental abduction is the final point of a misogyny clusterfuck, and just fixing that won’t take care of the real problem.

        1. though I would begin by automatically terminating parental rights for domestic abusers.

          Without any due process? Or would that require some sort of judicial hearing? Because if it does, you’re right back at square one.

        2. To be honest, I consider that question to be along the lines of “Where will we find the money in the budget,” to which I always reply, “That’s not my problem.” Nobody’s paying me to research the issues and draft legislation

          I guess I just have a hard time taking it seriously when people say “the law shouldn’t work the way it does, but I also have no thoughts on how it should work.”

          Saying “it should be illegal to kidnap kids unless there’s abuse, but if there’s abuse you shouldn’t have to have a hearing or trial to prove it’s abuse” seems to be where some of the posters here are going, and it looks to me like a self-evidently circular and unworkable way to set up our laws on kidnapping. So when I ask “how would you change the law,” I’m not asking you to put your thoughts into legalese, I’m asking how you think we should get around that fundamental issue, because I’m not convinced a better setup is obvious.

        3. I think that’s an odd sentence to seize on given that I then go on to suggest exactly whom should be consulted.

          Jo and her daughter are the collateral damage of the law the way it stands. I don’t find that collateral damage acceptable. If legislators and legal scholars agree, then it’s on them to change it. As a citizen, my job is to put pressure on them to do so. It’s their job to figure out how to do so. I don’t need to be able to fix a car to know a crash when I see one.

          As to “without a hearing,” that’s a moot point. Since even convicted domestic abusers, as noted above, don’t lose parental rights, acceding to a hearing would not have allowed Jo to protect her child. If we had a different system, with greater resources and protections for abused women and children, she may well have made different choices.

        4. I basically agree with all the things you’d like to see done. I just don’t think they actually would address the fundamental conflict between a strong legal framework around preventing child abductions, and the need of a parent to remove their kid from an abusive situation immediately and without prolonged legal disputes.

    2. Donna L
      March 3, 2015 at 2:17 am | Permalink | Reply
      I understand people’s concerns about setting bad precedents and slippery slopes and all that, but there’s something that doesn’t sit at all well with me about expecting someone in Nan-Hui Jo’s position — who knew that her husband abused and threatened her (probably in her daughter’s presence), and knew that she had good reason to fear for her own and her daughter’s lives — to subordinate their own safety to the interests of hypothetical strangers in hypothetical circumstances involving false accusations fabricated for purposes of justifying a kidnapping. (Remember that according to the linked article, her husband has admitted that he physically abused her.)

      I’m going to answer directly since asked. I hope that folks will read it carefully, because this is a difficult topic to discuss and I will chose my words appropriately.

      1) You keep saying “fearing for their safety” and so does everyone else. How do you get from “her” to “their?” Unless I am missing it, there are no accusations of child abuse, much less any admissions or proof of child abuse.

      This is precisely the sort of reason that we don’t rely on parents to make this call. Even if you assume that she was fearing for her life; we still need a judge to evaluate the kid.

      I’m sure we would all be breathing a sigh of relief for the preservation of good precedent if she had remained in the USA, gone through “proper legal channels,” and she and /or her daughter had been murdered by her husband, as so many women and children have been in the past.

      You can’t design a system which has ZERO tolerance for any possibility of error, you know.

      Is it possible that she would file for a restraining order and get denied? Not with those emails. She could move; she could hide her location; she could even possibly get him tossed in jail for a bit.

      What this really was about, it seems, was her unwillingness to even consider sharing custody. Which: too bad for her. You don’t get to choose. You may think that your ex spouse is a blood sucking scumbag lizardheaded dung beetle, but if they can keep it together when the kids are around, they have the right to see their kids. They may not be able to see YOU; they may have to pay for visitation; they may have to jump through a gazillion hoops. But that isn’t your call. And it shouldn’t be.

      1. Research indicates that somewhere between 30-60% of all people who violently abuse their partners will escalate to abuse of the children they have with those partners. That is a scary-high percentage. And yes, that does mean that when a woman is abused by her partner, any fear she has for the wellbeing of her child is entirely reasonable as well.

        https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/213503.pdf

      2. What this really was about, it seems, was her unwillingness to even consider sharing custody. Which: too bad for her. You don’t get to choose. You may think that your ex spouse is a blood sucking scumbag lizardheaded dung beetle, but if they can keep it together when the kids are around, they have the right to see their kids. They may not be able to see YOU; they may have to pay for visitation; they may have to jump through a gazillion hoops. But that isn’t your call. And it shouldn’t be.

        What this really was about was an unwillingness on her part?

        What are you talking about?

        This is about a lot of things.

        You don’t think your spouse is a “lizardheaded scum sucking dung beetle”. You think he’s your seriously violent husband with intimate knowledge of you and your life and the emotional motivation to cause you pain.

        “if they can keep it together when the kids are around, they have the right to see their kids”

        Once your kids are born, they are around. Once you abuse their other parent, you are officially not keeping it together.

        A restraining order is literally not helpful. It pretty much is just a note from the police saying they promise not to ignore your calls.

        Don’t you understand that getting your abuser tossed in jail for a bit is not a tool that many victims see as useful? The way you’re describing the legal system sounds like a series of court TV, with every episode leaving you racing the clock on your last protective ruling to get your next protective ruling and focusing all your time and money on appearing appropriately desperate to a series of variably sympathetic government officials. Each courtroom scene is interlaced with our protagonist gazing out the window on the city streets with a glass of wine, wondering where “he” might be as the strings of suspense cue the audience’s emotion.

        Except this is not TV, this woman is probably like “Damn, I really need to focus on raising this kid.”

        That’s probably what this REALLY is about, if it’s REALLY about anything.

        You could point out that her actions have ultimately led to her losing her parental rights and her husband gaining custody, but I would point out that this belies any claim that the state is a good party for determining what’s best for a child. What the state, and the state rhetoric in your comment, seem to REALLY be about is making sure women stay in line and punishing them when they don’t.

        1. The laws have no distinction for the sex of anyone, so they’re not about “women.” Women abuse their kids too; 53.5% of child abuse cases in 2012 were female perps.

          And to answer EG’s “we don’t have a solution, you lawyers think of one:” We DID think of one, you just are refusing to use it.

          You can move to another state; file for divorce; file accusations of abuse and get the accused evaluated and drug tested; move to end parental custody; move for restraining orders; file for criminal charges; move for protective custody in a foster home; even move to terminate all parental rights.

          There’s really only a few things you CAN’T do, including “take the kid and leave the country and refuse to participate in the court system.”

          And this seems so fucking hypocritical. Y’all are so opposed to general rules that I have a really hard time imagining that you aren’t just playing “because I say so” here. There is no WAY you would be saying the same thing if a white Englishman got smacked around by his wife, decided he had had enough, and took her infant away, moving to another country and refusing to come back. Or to give her a chance to rehabilitate. Or to make a case before a judge. Or to see her kids in a playroom surrounded by cops, once a month, because her heart was breaking otherwise. You’d probably be posting “justice for the mother!” links instead.

          Christ.

          You could point out that her actions have ultimately led to her losing her parental rights and her husband gaining custody, but I would point out that this belies any claim that the state is a good party for determining what’s best for a child

          No, it doesn’t. The state works on averages and long term.

          As a rule, if the state lets people say “screw you, I’m not playing” then the outcomes are worse. Far worse.

          Perhaps this mother was apparently a non-crazy person who had at least some decent justification, but how the hell could you know that before a trial? The group of “defendants who say that their actions were perfectly justified and correct” basically includes every defendant, ever.

        2. There is no WAY you would be saying the same thing if a white Englishman got smacked around by his wife, decided he had had enough, and took her infant away, moving to another country and refusing to come back.

          They teach you how to build straw men in law school?

          The law should protect people who cannot protect themselves. The law, as written, does NOT DO THAT. You have to be a complete idiot to think this is justice.

          And yes, for the record, I think children should be removed from any situation where people are abusing each other, FFS.

        3. White Englishmen are so oppressed. It’s a cold, cruel world for them.

          And as for EG’s suggestion that legislators work with advocates, legal and otherwise, for victims of domestic violence of all cultures in order to revise the laws, that’s totes not possible because. Just because.

        4. Don’t you understand, EG? The law exists as it does for a reason. It’s not like laws are ever wrong or repealed or outdated or amended. That’s why we’re using the exact same constitution we had in 1789, and didn’t change it 27 times. It’s why we currently hire zero lawmakers at the state and government level. LAWS ARE GOOD, YOU PRETENTIOUS, UNHELPFUL FEMINIST ANARCHIST.

  6. Considering that if you kill someone in self defense, you will be arrested, you will get a hearing, and you may well be exonerated, I think it is okay for child abduction to be against the law unless you can prove it was for the safety and defense of the child. Then, prove that you were abused, because a spousal abuser is a de facto child abuser even if they never raise a hand to the child simply by virtue of forcing the child to live in an environment of violence and feeling unsafe, and you should be exonerated. Also, if an accusation of abuse is made against a parent, that parent should not have custody until the hearing… the father should not have the child, she should be in foster care until her mother’s trial, which should be fast-tracked because of the time sensitivity of a child’s well being.

    The idea that you’re supposed to allow your child to remain in an abusive environment because you cannot legally prove, yet, that it is one is patently ridiculous, yet just as obviously you can’t be allowed to just take your child because you’re mad at the other parent. But I see no reason why the self defense laws cannot apply here. Kidnapping a child to defend them against abuse should fall under the same exemption as murdering someone to prevent yourself from being murdered by them. It’s still homicide, but it’s justifiable homicide. Justifiable kidnapping should be a thing.

    1. But I see no reason why the self defense laws cannot apply here. Kidnapping a child to defend them against abuse should fall under the same exemption as murdering someone to prevent yourself from being murdered by them. It’s still homicide, but it’s justifiable homicide. Justifiable kidnapping should be a thing.

      That actually sounds just about right to me. The only part I’m not good with is this:

      Also, if an accusation of abuse is made against a parent, that parent should not have custody until the hearing

      There’s way too much potential for abuse if we come up with a way for angry exes to strip each other of parental rights without due process.

      1. Yea, but the well-being of the child comes first ludlow. It’s absurd that the child was returned to him. He hasn’t seen her in five years and has admitted abuse.

        1. Yea, but the well-being of the child comes first ludlow. It’s absurd that the child was returned to him. He hasn’t seen her in five years and has admitted abuse.

          I was responding to your specific claim:

          Also, if an accusation of abuse is made against a parent, that parent should not have custody until the hearing

          I agree the welfare of the child comes first, and I’m sure you can see how that principle would, in practice, lead to horrible outcomes for children of hostile divorces.

      2. CPS can already take your kids away and put them in a foster home until your trial date if you are accused of abusing them even if the accusation is patent and obvious bullshit, because the safety of the child comes first. In fact, CPS has been known to thoroughly abuse this power; there was a serious issue in New York for a while where CPS was taking children away from abused women because they were negligently exposing their children to domestic abuse. Think about that one for a moment.

        So sticking the kid in a foster home because a credible accusation of abuse has been made, resulting in charges being brought, is entirely reasonable within the way CPS operates. It’s not permanent loss of custody; if you’re exonerated, you get your kid back. The idea is that you can’t leave the kid in a potentially abusive environment until you prove that it’s safe. Which, yes, is the opposite of the way that the actual law works, where innocent until proven guilty, and this is why many parents live in terror of CPS. But it can’t be any other way because you can’t make a kid live with an abusive parent for months while the parent’s waiting for their trial date. Doing that results in dead kids.

        And yes, it’s shitty if you’ve been falsely accused. False accusations are always shitty. But just like with rape, false accusations are so much rarer than abusers getting away with it that I’d rather have a system that protects kids, with the risk of false accusation, than a system that does not. And I speak as a mother who has been falsely accused (thankfully it was so patently ridiculous it was dropped before even needing to go to trial, but it happened and my son spent a night in foster care.) I’d still rather a system where that can happen, because I’d rather lose my kids than see them die.

        1. Right. Which is why the concept that “the kid could not be protected without taking the kid away for 5 years” is a bit ridiculous.

          CPC isn’t perfect. But it’s a damn sight better than “do whatever the hell you want.”

  7. I wholeheartedly support any woman of color who breaks the law in order to protect herself and her child from an abusive man. Nan-Hui is not at fault for the man using the law to his advantage to not only punish her, but also take the daughter into his custody. None of this would have happened to her and her daughter if it weren’t for his actions.

    She is a brave, tormented woman who struggled to save herself and her daughter, and I have only sympathy for the two of them. And I’m praying that one day they are able to live safely away from the abuser.

    1. I wholeheartedly support any woman of color person who breaks the law in order to protect herself and her any child from an abusive man abuse.

      I agree with your general sentiment, for sure.

      1. Why not strip out all identities?

        I wholeheartedly support any person who breaks the law in order to protect any person from abuse

        I’m not sure why children are more worthy of specific mention for support than women of color.

      2. As a WOC, I prioritize fellow WOC and their experiences with male violence. Talking about my support for mothers of color and their children escaping from male abusers does not, in any way, imply that I think any other person escaping from any other abuser is undeserving of support. I’m not erasing anyone here – I’m merely emphasizing certain people.

        1. I absolutely get this and wasn’t accusing you of erasing anyone (also, am a WOC myself). Just modified the sentiment for my own purposes, when I endorsed it 🙂

        2. Yeah, I do recall disclosing that you’re also a WOC. To be honest, I just responded that way mainly because I’ve run into way too many people (white and non-white) who are all like “But what about ALL PEOPLE?” when I say “I care about women of color” or something similar. That’s not what you did, of course, but I guess I’m too used to anticipating that kind of derailing from other people.

        3. As a WOC, I prioritize fellow WOC and their experiences with male violence. Talking about my support for mothers of color and their children escaping from male abusers does not, in any way, imply that I think any other person escaping from any other abuser is undeserving of support. I’m not erasing anyone here – I’m merely emphasizing certain people.

          I think the overwhelming percentage of WOC who are victims of violence should make me (or anyone else) prioritize them as much as a WOC.

      1. How in the world is pointing out that people sometimes kidnap their children and flee the country for bad reasons and with bad outcomes irrelevant in a discussion about kidnapping children and fleeing the country?

        1. Because this is a discussion about the consequences of a system that does not take domestic abuse seriously. To try and turn it into something else by commenting about a completely different situation and equating the two is offensive and irrelevant. “But we have to have rules for these things” completely ignores the difficulties that people have had in trying to protect their children within a system that often doesn’t.

      2. The rules aren’t perfect, but they are better than this. To hear Jesse Charlton tell it, he suffers from PTSD that developed when he returned from war, has since received counseling, and has never done anything that could be construed as abusive towards his child. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it isn’t. But that is why we have trials and things.

        Does he deserve to be prevented from having any contact whatsoever with his child? Does his child deserve the opportunity to at least have some contact with her father? I am not qualified to make that judgment, but neither is Nan-Hui Jo.

        No one is saying she should not have fled to a place of safety with the child. She should have. And once she was safe, she should have picked up the phone, and called a social worker.

        And the reason we have these rules is, where do we draw the line on abuse. What if he is a cheating, lying, controlling, and emotionally manipulative man who withholds money/independence from his partner, but does not physically harm her. Can she flee then, and prevent him from having any contact with his children, without any judicial determination to that effect? We have rules for these things. They aren’t perfect. They need to be improved. But they are better than this.

        1. To hear Jesse Charlton tell it, he suffers from PTSD that developed when he returned from war, has since received counseling, and has never done anything that could be construed as abusive towards his child.

          Except abuse the child’s mother while the three of them lived together.

          Does he deserve to be prevented from having any contact whatsoever with his child? Does his child deserve the opportunity to at least have some contact with her father? I am not qualified to make that judgment, but neither is Nan-Hui Jo

          As the victim of his physical abuse, she’s definitely more qualified than her ex-partner.

          And the reason we have these rules is, where do we draw the line on abuse. What if he is a cheating, lying, controlling, and emotionally manipulative man who withholds money/independence from his partner, but does not physically harm her.

          Then that makes him emotionally abusive. Emotional abuse is still abuse.

  8. I grew up in a home where there was domestic violence, on a level that was trivial compared to Nan-Hui Jo’s experience, but that was still deeply upsetting.

    I would ask people to consider the harm to children of living with domestic violence. They witness it in many cases, they hear it and they feel the charged atmosphere where you can never relax and feel safe, when you are always frightened. Whether or not the perpetrator is also directly abusive to the children (and there is a strong correlation between partner abuse and child abuse, as well as the use of the child to continue abusing the partner) they are not unharmed.

    1. I think that’s why I feel strongly about this as well, anon. I had a similar experience. My shrink has a great time talking to me about how I was scared to be home with my father, how I was protecting my mother by 14, and how I felt when my father inevitably turned on me. I’d love to meet a person whose parent beat the shit out of the other parent and didn’t end up a little damaged.

      1. My dad didn’t even beat my mum. He just shoved her, threw objects and generally emotionally terrorized everyone, including my brother and I after the divorce. I mean we were lucky relatively.

        I don’t know what should be done about custody, but it upsets me to see people minimizing the risk to children. Too bad for us, I guess?

        I’m sorry for all you and your mother have suffered.

        1. I honestly don’t even think it was comparatively that bad relative to most people but appreciate your sympathies. I wouldn’t have even mentioned it if you hadn’t said something that rang so true to me. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to deal with too, because it sucks. I approve of all people who can bring themselves to separate their children from that, which is why I am team Nan-Jui Jo.

      2. I’d love to meet a person whose parent beat the shit out of the other parent and didn’t end up a little damaged.

        The ocassions where it doesn’t happen are generally down to the abused parent consciously attempting to avoid this by hiding and enabling….

        1. That makes me want to hug those parents. I know I straight up resent my mother sometimes, but I can’t imagine going through what she did alone.

        2. That’s only in the rare occasions that it doesn’t come out..The situation especially sucks in many ways, specifically, it makes the abused parent less likely to be believed by the child if the abuse is finally addressed.

  9. People keep saying that she should have followed the law, but they forget that the law is stacked against her in this case.

    Jo’s not a US citizen. Her daughter and Charlton are. She had no choice but to run.

    1. Anybody can argue that. Lets call a spade a spade. You are sexist. If a man would have had “no choice but run” you would have seen a child abductor who needed to feel the full weight of the law.

      1. If a man would have had “no choice but run” you would have seen a child abductor who needed to feel the full weight of the law.

        Says Random Internet Dude who knows absolutely nothing about me.

        We need a giraffe here.

        1. I agree. McMike, that’s a bullshit ad hominem. Engage with Angel H.’s argument if you feel the need to reply to her–simply dismissing it as “anybody can argue that” and calling her a sexist is nonsense. Knock it off.

  10. This had nothing to do with racism or sexism. The law has been applied impartially. A man who would have just up and left with the child would have been arrested too on his return and the child separated from him and returned to the mother.

    She did not even attempt to go through the right channels.

    1. A wise male has decreed that this case about systemic discrimination against immigrant survivors of violence… has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination. Brilliant, we can go home now, everyone!

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