Asian-American, domestic violence, and immigrants rights community groups have been rallying to support Nan-Hui Jo, a single mother who fled with her daughter to South Korea in order to escape the alleged physical and emotional abuse of then-partner and the child’s father, Jesse Charlton, only for him to have her arrested and tried for child abduction as soon as she came back to the United States.
“The organizing around Nan-Hui's case has been a very organic process. The local Korean American community got involved pretty early on,” Saira Hussein, criminal justice reform staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus, told NBC News. “Since Nan-Hui's second trial began last Friday, there has been a lot of movement to raise awareness about her case in the wider community.”
Supporters wearing purple ribbons filled the California courtroom. Supporters circulated petitions and encouraged calls to Yolo County District Attorney and ICE to drop charges. Supporters have also helped with translation, emotional support, rides, food, analysis of domestic violence and immigration issues. Most moving, however, have been the pictures and stories of Asian Americans who survived domestic violence shared on social media using hashtags #StandWithNanHui and #WeSurvived.
Jo has been in jail and not allowed contact with her daughter since July. Her former partner, a combat veteran of the Iraq War with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - who has testified in court to grabbing Jo around the throat and throwing her against a wall - has been granted custody of their six-year-old daughter.
Complicating the situation further, although Jo has a U Visa application for permanent residency in process, which recognizes her status as a victim of crime, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to begin deportation proceedings at the conclusion of this trial, which could potentially separate her from her daughter indefinitely.
“Survivors of domestic violence should not be punished for defending themselves, protecting their children, and rebuilding their lives from the violence of an abuser,” said Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse (KACEDA) in a statement.
According to various studies examined by Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (API Institute), 41 to 61 percent of Asian American women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, higher than any other racial group.
"I think Nan-Hui's story is resonating with people the way that it is because domestic violence is an unspoken trauma for so many in our communities," Hyejin Shim, a volunteer from Korean American Coalition to end Domestic Abuse (KACEDA), told NBC News. "It also provides a glimpse into a horrifying system that criminalizes survivors, so people are rightfully outraged by that."