(photo submitted to the Sacramento Bee by Nan-Hui Jo; graphic design by Dillon Sung)
In July 2014, Nan-Hui Jo, a single Korean mother and survivor of domestic violence, was separated from her six year old daughter, Vitz Da, and arrested on claims of child abduction. In 2009, Nan-Hui fled to Korea with Vitz Da to escape physical and emotional abuse by her then-partner and father of the child, Jesse Charlton, a combat veteran of the Iraq War with PTSD and anger issues. Using a common manipulation tactic to control a partner’s attempts to regain independence, Charlton retaliated by reporting Nan-Hui for child abduction. Last July, when Nan-Hui arrived with her daughter to Hawaii, she was handcuffed, arrested, and immediately separated from her daughter. Nan-Hui has not seen her daughter in over seven months.
Charlton has publicly testified about his repeated violence against Nan-Hui, confirming that, on one occasion, he “grabbed her by the throat and threw her against the wall.” Charlton has also admitted that, on a separate occasion, he “broke his hand hitting the wall and punched the car’s steering wheel.” When Nan-Hui fled and attempted to rebuild her life, Charlton “sent emails saying he was ‘considering spending thousands of dollars on a scary bounty hunter.’” These incidents of violence are only the public ones against Nan-Hui. Like many survivors of domestic violence, Nan-Hui was concerned that if he had hurt her, that he would hurt the child. According to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, 30 to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. As advocates for survivors of domestic violence, we know that domestic violence thrives behind closed doors, away from the eyes and ears of the public.
Domestic violence is not just physical violence; it often involves “coercive control, economic abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual violence. It is intended to gain or maintain power and control over a romantic or intimate partner to intimidate, frighten, terrorize, humiliate, blame, or injure”. Charlton’s behavior and patterns of violence fit well into the prototypes of abusive partners, using different forms of power to control, manipulate, and smear their partners. Conflict in relationships is normal. Punching walls and hitting steering wheels to intimidate your partner, strangling your partner and throwing her against the wall, and threatening to use a bounty hunter is a pattern of abuse and violent behavior.
Five months after being arrested, Nan-Hui was tried on December 15, 2014, for child abduction. This trial resulted in a hung jury. The District Attorney, Steve Mount, however, pursued a retrial, refusing to acknowledge the importance of domestic violence in Nan-Hui’s case and instead is using all resources available to prosecute her. Instead of being granted protection, survivors of domestic violence are often criminalized: the ACLU reports that of all incarcerated women in the United States, 85-90% have a history of domestic and sexual abuse. Survivors of domestic violence should not be punished for defending themselves, protecting their children, and rebuilding their lives from the violence of an abuser.
Nan-Hui has been in jail since the arrest without due process, and has now been separated from Vitz Da for over seven months. These punitive measures show little concern for the welfare of either child or mother. Nan-Hui and her daughter have an incredibly close and caring relationship, and to Nan-Hui, Vitz Da is her whole world. After a stillbirth earlier in her life, Nan-Hui was told that she would never be able to conceive again. When she was pregnant, she considered her daughter a miracle. Giving grace to the birth of her daughter, Nan-Hui named her her Vitz Da, meaning “all light in Korean”. Vitz Da, who was fully immersed into Korean society for most of her life, has been abruptly disallowed any contact with her mother. Vitz Da is currently in full custody of Charlton, and Nan-Hui has not been able to speak with her daughter since July.
We are deeply disturbed at how aggressively the District Attorney’s Office is working to prosecute and criminalize a single immigrant mother and survivor of domestic violence. Nan-Hui’s case is ongoing, and is expected to continue this week.
We have been notified that there is an ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) hold on Nan-Hui Jo so that regardless of the verdict, immediate deportation proceedings will take effect after the retrial, which would separate Nan-Hui from her daughter permanently.
Stand with us in supporting Nan-Hui and demand justice for all survivors of domestic violence. We demand that Sign the petition, share her story, and send a strong message to ICE, Yolo County, and our Congressional leaders that survivors of domestic violence must be supported and not criminalized.
ICE, drop the case against Nan-Hui! No deportation!
Free Nan-Hui Jo and reunite her with her daughter!
End the criminalization of survivors!
Take Action Now:
- Sign and share the petition
- Call ICE Field Director Craig Meyer at (415) 844-5512 to ask that ICE exercise its prosecutorial discretion and drop Nan-Hui’s case
- Follow us on Twitter @standwithnanhui and Facebook
- Share this post and our event on your social media outlets
- Hashtag #StandWithNanHui, #WeSurvived, and #Not1More — speak out and tell us your stories! As we stand with Nan-Hui, we stand with all survivors of domestic violence—especially immigrant, incarcerated, and women of color survivors.
Supported by the following organizations
- (partial list, in alphabetical order):
- Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), San Francisco, CA
- Asian Women’s Shelter (AWS), San Francisco, CA
- Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF), Los Angeles, CA
- Communities United Against Violence, San Francisco, CA
- Domestic Violence Consortium (DVC), San Francisco, CA
- Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse (KACEDA), Oakland, CA
- Korean American Family Services (KFAM), Los Angeles, CA
- My Sister’s House, Sacramento, CA
- If your organization would like to sign onto our statement, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.