Editor’s note: This article contains details of alleged abuse and may be disturbing to some readers
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Vancouver woman who says she lived with years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband is terrified she’ll never see her young son again.
Jane Tse says the boy’s father took him to Taiwan to visit family just before the pandemic hit, and he’s now filing for divorce.
“For that first month [after] my son was born, it was rough. Within one week, he strangled me a few times and because of that … I got very scared,” she said.
It’s been a year and a half since Tse last saw her five-year-old child in-person.
She and her Taiwanese husband had their son, Leander, in 2015. They seemed like a happy couple in public. But behind closed doors, Tse says she lived in fear.
“The first time he strangled me, I remember very clearly. Basically, he left the bathroom in a mess and when I told him about it, he thought I was making things up and offending him again [and] he doesn’t like it when people ‘say things that aren’t true.’ He got very flushed and said it’s not true and then stapled me to the floor and that’s the first time he strangled me. I couldn’t breathe for 10 seconds and I thought ‘Oh my god, I am going to die.'”
Angela Marie MacDougall with the Battered Women’s Support Services says Tse’s situation is all too familiar, and people will often stay in abusive relationships, believing the best course of action is to try and keep the family together.
“One of the reasons women stay in abusive relationships is so their children can have a father and so they can maintain that kind of nuclear family,” MacDougall said.
Tse says as time passed, her husband would often take their son to his home country of Taiwan to visit his family there. So when he told his wife they would be going again in 2020, she didn’t think much of it.
“I never even thought … that he would keep baby there, and then COVID happened,” she said.
The chaos of the pandemic convinced Tse to allow her son to stay in Taiwan with his father, waiting for things to cool down. But months after the father and son arrived, Tse received a shocking letter.
“The first document [said] this is granting my son citizenship and then I proceed to read it and [it said] you are being sued for divorce in Taiwanese court,” she explained.
Tse’s worst nightmare was realized: She may never see her son again.
“I was like what does that mean? Why? I just always had faith it would work out. The truth wins, I believe in that. But now, it’s like what is the world becoming?”
Tse says she has spoken with several lawyers, and they have all given her different pieces of advice.
“You can’t just use COVID as a reason to keep someone. It’s extraordinary circumstances. It’s not like I can go right away,” she said.
Surrey lawyer Chris Carta specializes in family law. He says a “left-behind parent,” can be in a “sticky situation.”
“There’s not a lot that could be done,” he said.
Carta says Tse’s circumstances are not unique, and it comes down to whether the country has agreed to an international treaty, which helps parents get their child back when they have been abducted by a parent from one country to another.
“International child issues are always difficult,” Carta said. “A lot of countries out here are part of something called the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction. Canada is one of them. That creates a process for people to get their kids back to their habitual residences. In the case we are talking about, Taiwan unfortunately is not a signatory.”
Without Taiwan being part of the agreement, Carta says Tse is left with very few options, other than hiring local lawyers in Taiwan and fighting for her parental rights in that country.
“I’m at a disadvantage because my Taiwanese lawyers say the longer my son lives in Taiwan, the less chance I can get him back,” Tse said. “To me, it doesn’t change that before this incident, his habitual residence was Canada and he was just taken there and because of COVID … No one could predict COVID. It’s not like I intended for my son to move there and I would not have let my son go if I knew he wasn’t coming back.”
MacDougall says Battered Women’s Support Services has had to adapt its services to accommodate for women in circumstances like Tse’s.
“We see it routinely. I won’t say that it’s a regular occurrence, but we see it routinely and enough where we feel like we have some expertise in the relationship between family law and gender-based violence. So, it’s a piece of work that we fell into out of necessity,” she said.
Tse is looking at every avenue to try to get her son back. She’s reached out to her local MP, support services, and now the media. But the process is beginning to make her feel hopeless.
“The law, in general … should be stronger, like something to prevent this from happening. If this is happening so much, why do we feel so hopeless when it does happen?” she wondered.
She’s been left with very few answers and is continuing to use what little money she has left to try to fight for her parental rights.