news

Kay had never heard the term 'domestic violence'. Then her boyfriend tried to strangle her.

When Kay Schubach met Simon Lowe in a Sydney cafe in 2003, she says it was like a “love bomb” erupted.

Handsome, charismatic, perceptive; within a matter of days he had swept the successful financial manager into an intoxicating, insular world of passion, gifts, sex and romance.

Within a matter of weeks, he tried to strangle her.

“I think now if I saw him on the street I would definitely have a physical reaction – I think I’d have a heart attack,” she tells Mamamia. “I’ve seen him on CCTV and it’s still really powerful because he’s one dangerous man.”

Schubach is not the so-called Playboy Rapist’s only victim.

Simon Lowe, who now goes by Bonito Monteiro (a name he tells women is Portuguese for “beautiful hunter”) is currently behind bars, having been jailed for 12 years in 2009 after he bashed, raped and threatened his ex-girlfriend over the course of 12 months.

In 2003, he was given a good behaviour bond after he stalked another woman and attempted to suffocate her with a pillow.

Simon Monteiro released
Kay Schubach. Image: Steven Godbee.

Monteiro's victims are among the one in six Australian women who have experienced violence at the hands of a partner since the age of 15.

Until she became one of them, it was a world Kay Schubach had never known.

"I've been in really healthy, supportive relationships all my life, including with my family, so when he came along I had no defences, no terminology," the 53-year-old tells Mamamia. "I was like a bunny in the spotlight."

ADVERTISEMENT

After hooking her in with lies and false promises about the family she longed for, Montiero skilfully set about isolating her from people who might undermine his control. His methods were subtle at first but became more and more extreme over the two months they were together - he cut her off from friends, hid her phone and keys, bombarded her with phone calls at work until she lost her job, even once put sugar in her petrol tank.

His jealously, his vacillating moods then turned physical when she says he tried to smother her in her own Point Piper apartment.

"I lived in a nice neighbourhood and when screamed for help I expected to hear the sirens, I expected to hear someone knock on my door to ask if I was alright," Schubach says.

"I was so shocked when no one came to help me."

That was Schubach's biggest life lesson, and would become the motivation for her to pen her cautionary 2012 book Perfect Stranger, to launch a social justice consultancy, and to continue to advocate for domestic violence awareness more than 13 years on.

"I still get women saying to me, 'I just can't understand how that happened to you' and 'If it was me, I would have just told him to f*** off'," she says. "So long as I hear that, I realise I've still got to keep talking about the corrosiveness of someone just undermining you and belittling you and telling you it's your own fault."

Schubach argues that partners who act in that way are playing into something broader. The niggling voice in a woman's ear with when she opens a magazine or turns on the television, the voice that compounds the insecurity, that tells her she's just not doing enough to keep her man happy.

"We are just pummelled with all this information that we're not good enough," she says, "that if we were better, bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, wittier, that we could prevent all these misfortunes."

It's just one of the many layers of toxic stigma and shame that she believes gag women subjected to domestic violence.

"We still victim blame; we still presume that [domestic violence] happens in lower socioeconomic demographics; we still make so many assumptions about race and religion; we assume that quiet women aren't strong women," she argues. "There's so much judging going on, and I think we need to be better than that."

A way forward, Schubach argues is to place the onus back on the perpetrators and to empower people to recognise the red flags waved by most abusive partners. Among them surveillance, isolating you from family and friends, dictating your schedule and controlling your finances.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Any one of those things on their own doesn't seem anything, but if you put three or more together you've got a power imbalance, you've got a controlling relationship. It's definitely a red flag and you should definitely be talking to someone."

Kay Schubach. Image: Women's Legal Service Queensland.

If that's not police, then a friend or relative. And if they don't listen, keep talking until you find someone who will. Because, she says, their support could make a difference in ways you never expected.

"Sometimes it will flash through your mind, 'Who was that one person that I spoke to who nodded in agreement or who held my hand?' Because that could be the person that you ring, it could be the number that you've memorised, it could be the person that you run to," Schubach says. "And it could be that split second thought that's the difference between life and death."

When the situation is that dangerous, she stresses that it's important to take extreme caution and develop a solid exit strategy. (For a safety planning checklist, see 1800 RESPECT)

"You have to know the warning signs and we can't be ashamed to to ask for help," she says. "There are fantastic support services out there right now. Your HR department should be understanding about this, your bank should be starting to understand signs of financial abuse... We are beginning to change."

ADVERTISEMENT
Simon Lowe, a.k.a. Bonito Monteiro. Image: Prime 7.

Bonito Monteiro is due for release in 2020, and Schubach has no doubt that he will offend again. She believes it's part of him, a part that she has been living with the fallout from for over a decade. It - he - cost her several friends, her job and her apartment; even forced her to flee overseas for two years where she had to live off her savings.

Then there's the PTSD: "At first I couldn't bear anyone to tell me anything, even to turn left because Simon was so controlling," she says. "It was like being in a war zone, I had hair trigger reactions to everything."

While she's reclaimed her life, even today, an element of that fear remains. It could be the sound of leaves rustling outside her window, or the thought that when she goes on television or talks to the media he may be watching.

But Schubach feels she has no choice but to keep speaking out. She finds strength in the idea that it might help women recognise his face, but more importantly recognise his behaviour and that of men like him.

"There are no innocent bystanders; we are all responsible for domestic violence," she says. "If we turn a blind eye to it we are just as guilty to the people who perpetrate it."

If you or someone you know is in need of support, please call the national domestic violence hotline on 1800 RESPECT or visit their website.

Video courtesy of Women's Legal Service Queensland.

00:00 / ???