A mom from the Chicago suburbs has been indicted on aggravated battery to a child and other charges based on the recent beating of her two-year-old daughter. The problem: She never beat her child in the first place.
Prosecutors say that Cathleen Koch had a parental duty to intervene on her child's behalf—"then lied to police and paramedics about the attack," reports the Chicago Tribune. The person who allegedly did harm the child was Koch's boyfriend, James C. Cooper, who also abused Koch and threatened her with violence if she ever decided to contact law enforcement. Cooper's also been charged. They all lived in a Super 8 Motel together at the time of the incident.
According to the indictment, Koch allegedly lied to a police dispatcher and investigators about how her daughter was injured, and lied again about Cooper not being in their room when he actually was. Prosecutors argue that Koch's parental duty required her to leave Cooper, given his violent nature and heroin addiction. She didn't, and now she's facing prison time. She's also prohibited from seeing her daughter, should she somehow raise bail money (don't count on it).
This case is pretty problematic for a number of reasons. Cooper seems like a credible threat. We don't know Koch's situation, but it sounds like she was pretty dependent on him—if not for an income, then to share things such as housing that reduced her expenses. We don't know much about her support network, but if it was limited then what the hell could she really do to escape this guy? If she ended up on the streets, wouldn't that also be violating her parental duty according to these prosecutors' definitions?
Seems like this woman had no options or safe way out, no matter what she did. And it also seems like the law is punishing her for being vulnerable and making some bad decisions that perpetuated her vulnerability. Luckily, it seems like she's got a compassionate attorney who's dedicated to her case. But if he's not enough to sway the court, and she loses, then what happens to the thousands of other domestic violence victims who have no place to escape from violent partners? Let's hope this isn't the start of some kind of backlash against domestic violence victims. That's the last thing we need.
Lawyer: Mom's arrest may impact domestic cases [Chicago Tribune]
Attorney: Accused Mother of Injured Girl Also a Victim [St. Charles Patch]