A domestic violence survivor who won a landmark Supreme Court case is found dead at her home

Narkis Olan and her baby son in a photo shared to Facebook earlier this month.

Narkis Olan and her baby son in a photo shared to Facebook earlier this month.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in June Golan vs Saada that Narkis Golan, a domestic violence survivor who fled Italy to the United States with her child, could not be compelled to return her infant son to his allegedly abusive father, Isacco Jacky Saada. Four months later, on Wednesday evening, the 32-year-old mother was found dead in her apartment.

In a statement to Jezebel, the New York City Police Department’s Deputy Public Information Commissioner’s Office said, “There is no criminal suspicion [sic] at this time.” But the office of the chief medical examiner is still determining the cause of death, and the investigation “is still ongoing.”

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Golan supporters have since shared heartache, outrage and suspicion of the circumstances on her death on social media – especially since her young son is now at risk of having to return to his father in Italy. In the weeks leading up to her death, despite the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Golan, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York upheld its earlier decision that Golan should return her child to Saada, Italy. (In 2019, the district court concluded that returning to Italy “would reveal [Golan’s son] to serious and ongoing domestic violence,” but it still ruled in Saada’s favor due to technical precedent set by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.) Golan, her supporters throbShe is a “protective mother” who “would not leave her child”.

Golan’s sister Morin Golan told Jezebel via Zoom that those who wish to respect Golan’s family, young son and legacy as a lawyer should refrain from speculating about her death at this time. “We want to make sure the right information is being shared and that we are all treating it with respect because the fight is not over yet. There is still work to be done and we don’t want anyone’s story to interfere with our ability to continue to protect their son,” Morin said.

Nicole Fidler, the director of volunteer services at the Sanctuary for Families, who has worked closely with Golan on her case for years, said Jezebel should be remembered for her persistence and refusal to give up her fight to protect her young son – literally until the day of her death. On the night of Golan’s death, Fidler said: “She was on the phone with her lawyers and strategizing for the Second Circuit’s appeal, so she really fought to the end. That’s the most important thing to remember here.”

On September 1, Golan responded to the district court’s recent ruling in a Facebook post. “After winning the Supreme Court, I once again had to face the same unsympathetic judge who wants to force my son back into a country where I was tortured, raped and abused in every way,” Golan wrote. “For me, there was never justice. All I can do is try to be the best mom I can while fighting this fight that makes no sense. I keep asking myself WHY???

“Why does the system ALLOW such a person to continue harming my son and I in court after surviving such abuse,” she continued, before making the chilling observation that “many women die in cases like hers.” “People call me a survivor. What have I survived when I am still fighting for my human rights that have been taken from me for so many years while the real criminal can live his best life knowing he still has that power over me?”

“Why do I have to be threatened and silenced by the system designed to protect us? Why? I’m just trying to give my son the life he deserves,” Golan wrote. She concluded: “I’ll probably never get those answers, but one thing I know for sure: I won’t stop fighting, nor will I be silenced from now on. I want the world to know the truth.”

Golas was found dead this week, just over a month after her impassioned Facebook post. In an audio clip of a conversation between Saada and Golan released to the public on Thursday, Saada can be heard telling Golan he has good connections with judges and courts in Italy amid their ongoing legal battle.

In Golan’s files, she had accused Saada of often pushing, hitting and grabbing her in front of her son, and even threatening to kill her. When Golan took her son to her brother’s wedding in the United States in 2018, she sought refuge at a local domestic violence shelter rather than return to Italy. Golan sought a “get,” or Jewish religious, divorce from Saada, her husband since 2014, but he refused unless she returned to Italy with their child. Legal representatives for Saada did not immediately respond to telephone or email requests for comment on Golan’s death.

Golan never gave in to Saada’s demands.

“The most admirable thing is that no matter how exhausted she was, no matter how many times she called me day or night, cried about it or just said, ‘It’s so hard, it’s so hard’ – no matter how many times, she just kept going ‘ Morin said. “She was trying to protect her son from a great evil. Giving up was never an option, for her family, for her child, and not just for her child, but for all the women who reached out to her and shared her stories. There is nothing she would not do for her son and the women and children she fought for.”

Fidler told Jezebel that Golan insisted from the start that she wanted to change the law for children and mothers like her, called “Hague mothers,” who flee their countries of origin with their children to escape abuse, just to be with face legal retaliation from abusers. who weaponize the child abduction clauses of the Hague Convention. “She was always like, ‘We’re going to the Supreme Court,’ and the attorneys in her case were always a little skeptical because we knew the odds,” Fidler said. The Supreme Court accepts about 1% of cases. “But she knew this was a fight worth fighting, even if everything — financially, the entire court system — was stacked against her.”

“She was the survivor of such extreme abuse and control, and she is also a survivor of the court system, which is a very difficult and challenging place for domestic violence survivors,” Fidler told me. “Her legacy is the Supreme Court case.”

The Supreme Court ruling in Golan’s favor marked a crucial victory for victims of domestic violence like Golan and their children who are seeking refuge in the United States to move forward. Previously, a US Circuit Court of Appeals precedent required that children should be returned to their country of habitual residence despite the risk of abuse if there are “better measures” that can reduce the risk of abuse. Before Golan’s case went to the Supreme Court, a U.S. District Court and the Second Circuit ruled that their son had to be returned to his father in Italy because, in theory, steps could be taken to reduce the risk of harming the child – namely: The district court ruled Saada could be ordered to seek therapy, drop the criminal charges against Golan, and pay her $20,000 to have her son returned. “What they did to her in the last five years of her life was just horrific and forced her to experience such heaviness, such mental, emotional exhaustion even after she acknowledged the abuse,” Morin said.

In the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn these previous rulings, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “a court is not required to order the return of a child if it finds that the return would place the child at serious risk of physical or psychological harm.” , and that courts are under no obligation to consider all possible remedies to reject a request for the return of a child under the Hague Convention.

Robert Abbott, a Connecticut resident who knew Golan personally, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday that the two “became good friends” over the course of their case. He acknowledged that “up to now…there has been no evidence of foul play” in Golan’s death, but said he had “spoke to homicide detectives and asked them to investigate further.”

“She FaceTimed me 24 hours a day and I just listened to her struggle and fought to keep Bradley,” Abbott wrote. “[Golan] wanted to be in my film about Hague Moms but was afraid of what might happen if she spoke up. She has helped me in so many other ways by connecting me with other moms.”

In fact, Golan’s Facebook page has post after post, exploring the stories of mothers and survivors trying to protect their children, and how their friends and followers could help them. That, says Morin, was Golan. “She was a warrior. She has paved the way for all people in this situation to be safer for themselves and their children.” Morin hurts that her sister “had only a moment to learn that freedom from the Supreme Court decision.” . And now she never will.

“She couldn’t stay to feel like she was free, not to be in misery, not to feel like her every move was being watched,” Morin said. “She couldn’t take her son to Disney. She couldn’t do those things with her child that she wanted to do.”

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