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OUR VIEW: As nanny's story goes national, readers respond

A wealthy family, owners of multiple houses in Woodbury and at home in China, brought their nanny from overseas only to allegedly force her into what amounts to slavery, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said last month.

It seems unfathomable.

But Orput took the bull by the horns and charged the nanny's employer on five felony charges—labor trafficking, felony seizing passport with intent to violate labor trafficking, false imprisonment, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, and third-degree assault causing substantial bodily harm. Lili Huang, 35, of Woodbury appeared in court on the same day on which she was arrested and she returns to court today (Thursday, Aug. 18). The nanny, who remains unidentified by authorities, had two black eyes, bruises, broken ribs and a broken sternum. She was found in Woodbury after almost being hit by a car. She had fled the house and headed toward the airport on foot.

The news, which first broke on woodburybulletin.com on the afternoon of Friday, July 15, gripped Twin Cities media and took hold nationally. Stories on the atrocities occurring in Woodbury appeared in Huffington Post, Washington Post, US Weekly, New York Magazine, WGN-TV, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, People, and other large media outlets.

The 58-year-old victim's drama played out in front of live studio audiences and on the pages of nationwide publications—unwelcome media attention, in a way.

For one, a faulty statement about Woodbury being home to some of the wealthiest families in Minnesota has been circulating among otherwise-reputable news outlets. We in Minnesota tend to be reserved, but it's hard to hold back our anger when the wealth of our hometown is noted in such a way as to insinuate that the wealth of the town's residents had the slightest impact on the beating and starvation of an innocent woman.

Woodbury residents who've enjoyed simpler times in their hometown—and the not-so-long-ago days of only one stoplight and no traffic in town—might not want human labor trafficking to become the face of Woodbury. We've never been known as a high-crime neighborhood and we don't intend to.

More important than the image of a town, what has been strikingly touching in the days after the alleged attack and subsequent escape, and what the staff at your local newspaper wants to remember years from now is the caring reaction of readers.

Not two days after a Woodbury nanny was beaten and her story became to spread like wildfire, people began to email your local newspaper asking to help.

"Is there a way we can contribute directly and/or send notes of support to the woman ... ?" one email said.

Another concerned reader sent: "I'm a nanny in the Seattle area, and my nanny community and I were wondering if you could help us out regarding the nanny who was (allegedly) abused by her employers. We were hoping you might have any idea how we may send the woman a care package as a show of support while she recovers."

Woodbury Public Safety assuredly has pointed the victim in the direction of Homeland Security, which is ensuring that the victim's needs are met.

"They will work to support her through immediate care needs, and assisting her in getting back home when the time comes," Michelle Okada, public information officer, said in an email to the Woodbury Bulletin.

Under horrible circumstances, a shocked public wants to do what it can to assist the victim.

Woodbury and other police, United Hospital in St. Paul, Homeland Security and the county attorney's office—among other agencies—were very responsive to the need for speed after an unimaginable situation. Local residents and national readers, wealthy or not, are willing to help.

No one wants to read a story like this, and we all want the victim's pain to end.

Mathias Baden, editor of the Woodbury Bulletin, wrote this editorial.

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