This post is very personal because it details how our daughter was abducted. Before I start, it will become apparent that I haven’t provided any names, or my exact whereabouts. My reasoning isn’t that I am hiding anything. Rather, as Gavin Maxwell put it in Ring of Bright Water:
…because identification in print would seem in some sense a sacrifice, a betrayal of its remoteness and isolation, as if by doing so I were to bring nearer its enemies of industry and urban life.
In my opinion, the internet and digital interference played a big role in our daughter’s abduction. It was a strung out process during which my ex-wife’s online behaviour gradually became such that I realised my daughter was being wrongfully retained by her mother. Further, I had no way of contacting her, photographic memories had been destroyed and a new (false) version of events was being created that completely erased me from the picture.
In a nutshell, what happened?
So what happened? Basically, the relationship between my ex-wife and I became toxic over roughly a three year period. It ended with my her being arrested, charged with a number of violent offences against me and later convicted. Following this I did not feel safe being around her, but did not want to separate our daughter from her mother. As a token of good faith (hoping to nurture positive communication) I allowed my ex-wife to return to Japan with our daughter.
We had a strict agreement that I would pay child support, I would send letters, I would send presents, I would visit regularly, our daughter would visit my home country regularly and we would talk regularly via Skype. Over a period of maybe 12 months, it became apparent that my ex-wife had no intention to comply with our agreement, had re-married 3 months after our divorce and was doing everything possible to prevent our daughter from having access to her biological father consequential cultural needs.
Then why did you let her leave the country with your daughter?
I accept that questions about my role in the break-up are inevitable. Also, why did I would leave our daughter with somebody who had been violent towards me? My answer to this is that I’m no saint, and sure… I could have done many things better in that relationships (like any young, inexperienced parent). However, I was never violent or controlling. Maybe I was naive, but I don’t think it would have been fair of me to separate our daughter from her mother on a (then) irrational fear of abduction. Also, our daughter’s Japanese grandparents are kind, gentle, honest people. I couldn’t picture them letting this happen after they had been so nice to me during my time in Japan. Things change, and I think the online world helps make that happen in a faster, more exaggerated way than would otherwise be possible.
How did online behaviour provide preparation for the abduction?
The internet was the carriage service that facilitated three key aspects of the abduction. These are services for finding a new partner while married (try dating with a husband and kids!), siloing negative thoughts about a person/culture and learning about how abduct a child.
Connecting unfaithful parents with abductors
Firstly, I think that the internet provided the tools to break our marriage. I’m now happily re-married and don’t want to rattle on about this too much, but how does a Japanese woman who is living in a western country and married with a kid meet a single Japanese guy who she will later marry three months after meeting in person? (Also, three months after receiving an assault conviction against their spouse). I don’t know, or care about the full details but I think that being able to easily setup a new relationship without having to physically court a new partner allowed my ex-wife to plan ahead. It wasn’t just a theory that she might be able to find somebody else after plotting to abduct our daughter, she already had an escape car waiting.
Connecting abductors with extremists
Secondly, the internet helped foster a negative, extremist mentality within a heavily siloed environment. I think this started with the fact my ex-wife felt lonely and displaced, being away from Japan. 12 months before our relationship ended, my ex-wife started befriending a lot of random people on Facebook, and using her wall to publicly bash me for being a ‘lazy’ husband, or my parent’s beach house for being ‘boring’. I gave up on reading her Facebook feed because our private life basically became public.
Over this time she started losing all of her real-life friends, leaving her feeling further isolated. I suspect this was because they got sick of her daily feed of Facebook shitposts about me, my family and our home country. The ones who didn’t switch off were her new online friends. They formed a small, closet minority of Japanese women who shared extremist hatred of western culture. This group seeded the idea that it was in her interest to isolate her daughter from western culture, and other such radical ideas. I emphasise that this group is not reflective of what most Japanese people think, and more a phenomenon of online interaction. If you want to find a group of people who hate something, it’s just a web search away, even if it’s something nonsensical like hatred of a font – see this site where you can report a ‘Comic Sans Criminal’.
Providing how to guides for abductors
Lastly, the internet is basically an open university for ‘how to abduct’ if you want to use it that way. This was the third and final necessary online ingredient. I don’t want to link to these sites because I don’t think they deserve any publicity. However, it does not take a lot of imagination for one with basic Japanese language skills to discover them by doing a basic web search.
What were the mechanisms for the abduction?
My ex-wife initiated the abduction by finding a new partner, recruiting an online cheer squad and researching how to get away with an abduction. However, online records and connections remained. These were her next target.
Cutting off communication
Communicating via e-mail is pretty easy if you know somebody’s address and you can confirm that they are in fact the person sending/e-mails. Following our divorce, my ex-wife went through a stage where she would send me, my friends and my family upwards of 100 e-mails a day using multiple pseudonyms. A notable persona was that of a neutral, concerned third party, who wanted to set it straight that I am a bad man who deserved to be assaulted, and should not have access to our daughter. Through this pseudonym she accused me of being violent towards her, and a paedophile.
My close friends and family quickly realised that it was my ex-wife and blocked her (again and again as she made new accounts and new accusations). Others did not. I lost a lot of friends because they didn’t want to get involved (or worse, they believed her false claims). Through multiple e-mail addresses she would do mischievous things like sending our wedding photos to female friends who she suspected I was courting (or cousins who she didn’t realise were family). It got to the point where I had to purchase a dedicated computer, converted into a smarter spam filter than the built-in filters used by popular e-mail providers.
Using harassment and hacking as a distraction from substantive issues
Of course, me being harassed was a distraction from the real problem. When the dust settled, I realised that I now had no way of contacting our daughter. My ex-wife had roughly 20 hostile e-mail accounts and was pretending to be other people. I had setup a spam filter to send the 100+ e-mails I was receiving each day straight to the bin. By becoming spam, she made it impossible for us to have logical conversation. Later down the track during mediation and court matters, she claimed that I had created these accounts and harassed her. This became a complete circus, deserving of is own post.
I stored most memories of our daughter online. For example, I had photo albums, facebook posts and cloud storage dedicated to preserving memories. Also, I had a hard disk containing my entire photo album of memories.
Not anymore. While I was focusing on spam prevention, another funny thing was going on. My ex-wife’s pseudonyms were into my e-mail. First I noticed that friends were receiving a lot of aggressive and/or inconvenient e-mails from me. Also, my ex-wife hindered my career progression by providing potential employers with her alternative version of my CV.
When I spoke to lawyers, my ex-wife magically knew their instructions. Less obviously, she was also into Facebook and a number of cloud-based services that I used for storing memories. One day I woke up and these had all dropped off. My backup hard disk had also been erased, other than our wedding photos.
After assaulting me, my ex-wife lived with my family. She used this opportunity to delete backup photos from mum’s computer and install a backdoor, used for future hacking exploits.
Creating false records of events
I’ll briefly touch on this issue because it became more important later on during mediation and court proceedings. As mentioned above, my ex-wife used pseudonyms for all of her correspondence and deleted photographic records where possible.
Afterwards, my ex-wife started claiming that she was the one being harassed by these pseudonyms. Lengthy mediation sessions were destroyed by this. Every week she refused to cooperate because an unknown person (her pseudonym) had harassed her via e-mail. I had no way of demonstrating that my ex-wife had authored these e-mails. My friends and family all knew she did. However, a thorough online investigation was beyond the scope of mediation.
False threats used in mediation
Other false records such as letters and death threats to my ex-wife and her family also started to surface. While completely fictitious, these claims were extremely harmful because they distracted courts and mediators away from our daughter and the fact she had been abducted, something they knew with 100 per cent certainty. Our mediation sessions involved many debates about who had sent these e-mails. This played with my mind and was extremely frustrating.
False threats were one of the nastiest mechanisms for abduction because filibustered our five free mediation sessions with nonsense. These were all wasted by discussing fake records rather than the welfare of our daughter. When the mediation concluded, I had a lawyer by my side. It was clear that things were about to get extremely expensive. I am lucky that I had family willing to sponsor further legal costs. Without financial support, enforcing our daughter’s rights would have been impossible.
Tips for restoring data
I was able to restore a lot of the more precious data using a neat program called FileSalvage. However, I love many. This was one of the lowest points in coming to terms with the abduction. I still dream that one day I will show our daughter these photos as a bit of a ‘memory box’.