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The Bali 9's Scott Rush is serving a life sentence. And now his fiancée is too.

It would be easy to call Nikki Butler crazy.

She did just agree to marry convicted heroin smuggler Scott Rush, and they plan to get married in the Balinese jail where he’s living out his life sentence. 

For those of us on the outside, saying ‘yes’ to a man who gets down on one knee and has to reach between bars to ask for your hand in marriage seems like total madness.

Nikki’s a married, 38-year-old banker from London with two kids. She’s getting a divorce so that she can marry Scott, who is 28. She says this just feels right. He says they were meant to be. She says she wouldn’t want to be with anyone else in the world, he says he’s so lucky to have her. It’s a beautiful love story — except for the part where he will probably die in the same cell where he proposed.

Scott is one of the infamous ‘Bali Nine,’ arrested on drug trafficking charges in 2005, sentenced to death, and then on appeal, sentenced to life. He met Nikki once – a week before his arrest. They lost touch (because he was in jail – a bigger reason than most not to call after a date). When Nikki saw Scott’s face on TV years later, she decided to contact him. Romance happened, though it really is hard to believe how it could.

Now you’re thinking: What kind of woman accepts a proposal from a convicted drug-smuggler? What kind of a life could she possibly have with him? What is she thinking, what is she doing, what is she signing her kids up for?

You want to call Nikki Butler crazy, I know. But wait.

Nikki is not the first woman to fall for an incarcerated man, and she won’t be the last. Convicted killers, drug dealers, thieves, wife-beaters, and thugs often receive a lot of fan mail from women who want to get romantically involved with them.

Women fall in love with men behind bars all the time — especially in America, which has 2.3 million prisoners and several websites that help women who specifically want to meet men in jail — and the reasons are many and varied.

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Members of the Bali 9

We don’t know or understand Nikki Butler’s reasons; we’ll probably never know for sure. But while the whole world is collectively calling her crazy, perhaps it’s worth pausing to consider the complexity behind her choice and canvass some reasons which might be slightly more nuanced than “she’s obviously mental”.

Women who fall in love with doomed men are often vulnerable, damaged, or scared. They’re too fragile, or too afraid, to have a relationship with someone who can touch them. Victims of physical or sexual abuse, for example, might find an incarcerated man appealing because he can never lay a hand on her. If he’s kept in a cell, he cannot cheat on her, he cannot beat her or her family, and he cannot leave her.

Beyond that, we live in a world that glorifies crime and those who commit it, where high-profile ‘bad boys’ get relentless media attention — and, for some, that infamy could be attractive. Psychologists say women who seek out jailed men might like the attention, or crave the opportunity to mother, spoil, or rescue a bad man. The allure for a lonely woman is in the chance to ‘right’ a man society has deemed ‘wrong’.

Already, headlines around the world have described Nikki as “the woman behind Scott Rush’s transformation from drug addict to well-behaved inmate”. Though she can never get him out of jail, she can make him a better person.

My sadness today isn’t for a ‘crazy’ lady, it’s for a woman who has just condemned herself to living out a life sentence with her partner. Her decision isn’t one I can understand, it might not be one that you can understand but it’s still hers to make.

It’s easy to be the person calling Nikki Butler crazy today but how about? Let’s not.

There could be so much more going on here than we will ever know.


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