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Opinion | Sexuality

Saving the Life of a Shaken Baby

Byron and Susan Mondoks' adoption of their granddaughter, abused by her birth father, unearths the meaning of love in action.

Justice is what love looks like in public, so says Princeton professor and pop philosopher Cornel West. When we think of justice though, we generally think of that which is found in courts or through political activism, or, failing these avenues of redress, what will be found at the judgment seat of Christ. But sometimes, justice is found in extraordinary acts of familial love.

Such is the case for Allie Rae Mondok, a little girl whose birth father shook her in January 2007 until her brain was irreversibly damaged. His one abusive act left Allie legally blind, paralyzed, comatose, and on the verge of death. But Paul Cote, then 22, quickly confessed to having abused his daughter several times a week during the few months that Allie and her then 19-year-old mother, Charity Mondok, lived with him and two other roommates in a San Francisco apartment. X-rays revealed old injuries including shoulder and rib fractures. Cote told Allie's doctor that he would sometimes grab his 10-month-old daughter by the neck and choke her. He also force-fed her until she vomited. All of these things he did knowing that they would only make things worse, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

In his final act of violence against Allie, Cote shook her vigorously for what he said was 20 seconds and then he squeezed her hard, because she wouldn't go to sleep. Finally, she went limp in her bed, and a roommate called 911.

When Allie finally emerged from her coma, it was not to life as any of the Mondoks had ...

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