I have written about my story previously to The Japan Times, but this most recent article from Richard Cory (“Left-behind dads take desperate measures,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 4) spurs me to write again.
I am an American parent who, in 1994, abducted my children away from their Japanese father because I could not get any protection from domestic violence (against me, not the children) in Japan. In fact, the general response of the legal system was to ask what I was doing to provoke my husband and to suggest that perhaps I needed to seek therapy.
I was also advised by attorneys that it was highly unlikely that I could obtain custody of the children, despite his abusive behavior and late-stage alcoholism, and ultimately I could find no options other than fleeing Japan.
Leaving the only home they had ever known, as well as the total separation from their father, was a terrible shock for my two daughters, and has affected them into adulthood. To this day I mourn the life we lost, and wish that there had been an alternative.
My preference would have been to stay in Japan, where I had lived for 17 years and felt deeply connected, but this was not possible. Without the protection of an order granting me primary custody, and without support from law enforcement to protect us from violence, we had no way to safely stay in Japan. Sadly, my husband died two years later of his alcoholism, never having been reunited with his children.
What I find most ironic is that in the eyes of the Japanese legal system, I would be viewed as having kidnapped my children (at one point, our local consulate informed me that I could be “detained” if I returned to Japan with the issue unresolved), while a Japanese mother who fled back to Japan with her children would be viewed as having done the necessary thing.
It is time for the Japanese legal system to join the 21st century and start to put the needs of these precious children ahead of prejudice and national pride.