Domestic Violence Survivor Faces Child Abduction Charges and Deportation

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

A Korean single mother and survivor of domestic violence has been separated from her child for several months by the child’s abusive father after being arrested on claims of child abduction. The story has been circulating around social media, lodging a serious protest against an alleged loophole in the American legal system.

Nan-hui Jo, a single mother of 6-year-old girl Vitz-Da, aka Hwi Da, has been incarcerated in the Yolo County jail in Woodland, Calif. since December as she faces charges of child abduction. In 2009, she fled to South Korea to escape from the physical and emotional abuse inflicted by Hwi’s father, Jesse Charlton, a veteran of the Iraq War who suffers from severe PTSD and has been determined to be 70 percent disabled by the Veterans Affairs Department. While Jo cared for her daughter in her home country, her mentally unstable then-partner emailed her threats of hiring a bounty hunter.

Authorities arrested Jo last year in Hawaii when she was visiting the American island to look for schools for Hwi. Charlton had filed charges against Jo for child abduction, so upon entering the American territory, the U.S. embassy in Seoul notified ICE and Jo was then sent to Yolo County jail.

Meanwhile, Hwi was sent to Charlton, a father she doesn’t know. Charlton has since denied Jo of seeing her daughter. If Jo loses the trial, she is likely to be deported from the United States while Charlton maintains full custody of their child.

Jo, who came to the United States from Korea as a student in 2002, was involved in a romantic relationship with Charlton between 2007 and 2008, during which she conceived Hwi. Charlton testified during Friday’s trial that he didn’t want Hwi and that he became physically abusive against Jo, reported the Sacramento Bee.

During the trial, Charlton also admitted that he had once grabbed Jo by the throat and threw her against a wall. Although police were called, he was only told to “leave for awhile.”

California’s domestic violence survivor groups and members of the Korean American community are currently rallying behind Jo, whose case could perhaps be deemed as a punitive misapplication of criminal and immigration law against a survivor of domestic abuse. The following is a statement circulating through social media in support of Jo:

unnamedImage by Dillon Sung

“We’re asking you to support Nan-Hui Jo in one or all of the following ways:

Sign and circulate this petition for Nan-Hui.

We are asking a group of supporters to court watch while trial is in session from 8:30-4:00. It is public session, so people can enter and leave at any time. Supporters will be wearing purple ribbons and sit in the rows directly behind Nan-Hui to show her visible, but silent support.

Contact if you’re interested in attending and carpooling from the East Bay.

Nan-Hui will start her testimony on Wed at 10AM. We are asking folks to show their solidarity by sharing Nan-Hui’s story + speak out to tell your own family stories around domestic violence at the same time that she testifies. Use hashtags #WeSurvived and #StandWithNanHui. As we stand with Nan-Hui, we stand with all survivors of domestic violence and their children.

Guidelines for how to share your story can be found at this Google Doc.

All of them. Yes, all of them.”


Featured image via Sacramento Bee/Nan-hui Jo

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