Immigrant domestic violence survivor convicted of “child abduction” for fleeing abuse

Nan-Hui Jo is the latest victim of a US state that punishes survivors — particularly immigrant women and women of color — while its public engagement office churns out glossy pro-survivor PR campaigns

According to the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Violence (KACEDA), in 2009 Nan-Hui fled her abusive partner in the United States, escaping with her young daughter Vitz Da to Korea. While threatening to spend thousands of dollars on a bounty hunter to find them, her abuser reported Nan-Hui for child abduction — a tactic that KACEDA points out is common among abusers attempting to reassert control over their victims.

When Nan-Hui eventually returned to the United States, entering Hawaii with six-year-old Vitz Da in July 2014, she was immediately arrested for child abduction and separated from her daughter. After her December 2014 trial ended in a hung jury, the district attorney relentlessly pressed ahead for a retrial, which on Tuesday returned a guilty verdict. Her sentencing hearing is set for April 1st.

Nan-Hui’s ex-partner, who has admitted to abusing her, remains free. It’s a common outcome, rather than an exception, for many immigrant women who seek the state’s protection and too often find themselves punished for it — all while their abusers escape with impunity.

It’s thanks to the efforts of KACEDA and other allied groups that have tirelessly documented Nan-Hui’s case and continue to organize for her release that we know her story at all, when hers is a lived reality for thousands and thousands of other survivors.

You can take action. Join KACEDA, the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (ALC), and others in telling CBP Field Director Brian Humphrey and ICE Field Director Craig Meyer to exercise prosecutorial discretion, release Nan-Hui, and drop deportation proceedings against her. And if you live in the Bay Area, head to the San Francisco Customs and Border Protection field office (33 New Montgomery St., 16th floor, San Francisco, CA 94105) for a rally and petition delivery today at 10am PT. You can donate to Nan-Hui’s legal defense fund here.

Let’s stop criminalizing domestic violence survivors for keeping themselves and their children alive. Ending gender-based violence will require radical shifts in the government policies and practices that have criminalized Nan-Hui Jo, Marissa Alexander, Tondalo Hall — and many other immigrants, people of color, and queer and trans people — for simply surviving. Ending gender-based violence means supporting all survivors and, in President Obama’s own words, it’s on us (and that means the federal government too) to do just that.

Header image credit: KACEDA.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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