October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the message to victims is clear.
Get out. Get help.
That’s exactly what Ohio second grade teacher Angela Luke, 40, tried to do, but now she‘s in hot water with the law.
According to reports, authorities were alerted to a domestic violence situation when Luke’s 12-year-old daughter called 911 for help on the night of Oct. 4.
“My dad is hurting my mom,” the frightened girl began the 17-minute call to dispatchers from her mother’s cellphone. “He’s making marks on my mom.”
According to police reports, the girl announced to the dispatcher that Luke and her two daughters attempted to leave the house three times, but each time were stopped by her father, 42-year-old Daniel Luke, who the girl reported had been drinking. She also reported during the call that her father was choking her mom and holding her down.
Finally Angela and her daughter two daughters were able to make it to the car. While they pulled away, Daniel clung to the window.
“He’s holding on,” she told the 911 operator. “Can you come really fast?” In the background, you can hear the girl tell her mother to “go really fast.”
While the young girl was still on the line with dispatchers, her father lost his grip on the vehicle and was run over. She explained to dispatchers that her father fell from the car and was dead.
Despite her beliefs, he was not yet dead, but he passed away a short time later at the hospital.
That should be the ending of this terrifying ordeal for Angela and her daughters, but unfortunately it’s only the beginning.
A few hours later, Angela was taken to Fairfield County Jail, where she was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and reckless homicide, both third-degree felonies. She faces a maximum jail sentence of three years for each charge. She pleaded not guilty and was released on her own recognizance.
And if that wasn’t enough, the school district where Angela works has suspended her without pay until her case is resolved.
Let all that soak in for just a minute.
This woman, who was trying her best to get herself and her two children out of a scary — and potentially deadly — situation, almost succeeded. For 17 minutes, she fought while her panicked daughter pleaded for authorities to arrive.
Was it her fault her husband chose to hold on to a moving vehicle? Should she have stayed there and asked him nicely to let go? Something tells me that wouldn’t have worked out in her favor either.
So she did what I would hope we all would do if faced with that situation. She put her foot on the gas and tried to get herself and her babies out of there.
And she’s being punished for it.
What kind of message does this send to victims of domestic violence? If you leave, make sure to do it carefully? Don’t let him get hurt while he’s hurting you?
As if there weren’t enough barriers making it hard for a victim to take the needed steps to freedom, here’s just one more message: Leave, but do it with caution. You could go to jail. You could lose your job.
And what kind of message does this send to her daughters? They witnessed the entire ordeal. They were terrified for their mother’s safety — scared enough for a young girl to call the police on her own father. And then, when they needed nothing more than the comfort of their mother’s arms, she was hauled off to jail. For saving herself. For saving them.
We can only hope the charges against Angela are dropped following an investigation, but a great amount of damage to the fight against domestic violence has already been done.
Update: As of October, 8, charges against Angela Luke have been dropped, according to the Fairfield County Municipal Court. The way the charges were dropped, however, allow them to be filed again pending the results of the investigation, which prosecutors have said will take about 30 days. The school district that employs her has also decided to reinstate her pay and allow her back into the classroom during the investigation.