When Violence Escalates
During Pregnancy

When Violence Escalates During Pregnancy with Amy Kaufman

Jenna Mayne: Welcome to she is your neighbour, a show where we discuss the realities and complexities of domestic violence. This podcast is brought to you by Women’s Crisis Services of, Waterloo Region, a charitable organization in Ontario, Canada. I’m your host, Jenna Mayne Join me as we talk to different people each week to learn how domestic violence impacts people from all walks of life. She is your neighbour, and we all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

This episode is called when violence escalates during pregnancy with Amy Kaufman. Amy is a mom and an advocate for survivors of domestic violence. During her marriage to a famous sports broadcaster, Amy experienced domestic violence, which escalated during her pregnancy. Her experience also included a lengthy public court paddle for everyone to see and hear. Following this experience, Amy has become an advocate for survivors, using her network and her story to support others. This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence builds, leading to severe incidents and death.

It’s really hard to sum up this episode into words because Amy’s story is just. It truly is incredible. I don’t know how she’s done what she’s done, and how she has managed to move forward in the way that she has. She is just an incredible advocate for other survivors, and to me, she’s honestly an example of, a white woman who’s using her privilege in the right way. Amy acknowledges how she had support during her experience that a lot of people do not have, and she does not think this is acceptable. Amy explains in this episode her experience, and she also explains what she is doing now to try and create change, especially in the legal system, because it can be so challenging for survivors who are going through the court system, especially if they have children, to try and make any progress. The other thing that I was reminded of in this episode is the power in sharing your story. And, of course, this is obvious. This is a podcast that’s all about sharing your story, and we always have to make sure that our guests are in a safe place to be able to do so. But when you are and when you feel that you’re at a place that you can do that, there really is so, so much power in sharing your story. And Amy is just a prime example of this. I’m so grateful to her for all the work that she is doing to support other survivors and for being on this episode, to talk about something that is not talked about enough. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Amy. Thank you so much for being here today.

Amy Kaufman: Hi, Jenna. Thank you for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m really. Yeah, I’m so excited to talk with you. We wanted to have you on the podcast for so long, so it’s so nice to have you here and get the chance to speak.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you so much. It’s nice to be here.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, great. So today we’re going to be talking a little bit, about your story, about your experience with domestic violence. I was wondering if you could just start by sharing a little bit about yourself.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, sure. So I’m Amy. I’m a mom. I worked in non profit for the last few years, and I’ve now co founded a, ah, company to help other survivors and litigants in court to be able to get access, the same access to justice that I did, because it’s unfortunately rare and like one in three women, you know, I’m a survivor of intimate partner violence, and I had to go through a very difficult court process in order to prove my story and am lucky enough to have kept full custody of my child and had my abuser’s parental rights removed. So I have had a very successful experience, despite how difficult it was, and I now work to try to help other survivors to achieve the same results.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I’ve followed your story and it’s just been incredible to see. I can’t believe how you have gone through this all and now you’re working to support others now that you’re. You’re kind of on the other side of it. But, yeah, I’m really grateful to have you here and to hear a bit more about your story. I wondered if you would mind beginning by sharing a bit more about your story and your experience for those who don’t know as much about it.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, definitely. So, I met my ex husband a little bit after my mom had passed away. I was very vulnerable. Her and I had been very close, and I didn’t realize that I was very susceptible to ending up in a situation like that. This person came along who really seemed to see me, who stayed up with me on the phone all night, who thought I was the most amazing thing, and who I realize now was grooming me by love bombing me, by telling me how in love with me he was. He decided then that he was going to move to Montreal from Denver, where he was working as a sports journalist. He was quite well known, and he was moving in with me. This was a whirlwind. It all happened very quickly, and I wrote myself a note, actually, at the time saying, like, this seems too good to be true, and I hope I’m not making the biggest mistake of my life. And it turns out that I was making a very big mistake, and it was too good to be true. So he moved to Montreal, and very quickly, I became pregnant. And like so many other survivors, the abuse really escalated during the pregnancy. What went from being psychological and emotional abuse and control that I was not able to recognize, turned into physical abuse, which made it much easier for me to recognize, but also made it so that I was terrified of leaving. It was not just me experiencing it anymore. It was my baby as well. And I didn’t know how to get out of this situation and keep my child safe. And there was no world in which I was going to be leaving an infant with this person who was threatening my life and my unborn child’s life. So I stayed in the relationship, trying to figure out what to do, feeling a ton of shame, feeling completely isolated, having no access to resources. and the thing that I did that I believe saved me was that I educated myself about intimate partner violence as much as I could. I read everything I could. I read testimonials, I read about survivors who got out, and I started to keep notes for myself. it was just for myself, so I could try to understand what was going on. At first, it was done through a lens of, if I can figure this out and I can figure out what’s triggering him, I can stop doing it and he’ll stop abusing me. And that was definitely not the way it works, but in doing that, I started to sort of create, like, a code where I had different letters that I used for punch and different letters that I used for push, and different letters. You know, if it happened on a Wednesday, I always wrote that it was a Tuesday. If he had seen the notes, he would not have been able to know exactly what it was. And the most important thing that I did was to share with my best friend what was going on. And having someone who knew, who told me that she was not going to judge me. She understood this was not my fault, but she was afraid that he would kill me, and so she was going to speak to me every day, and if I did not answer the phone, she was going to come over, and if we did not answer the doorbell, she would call the police. And just having that person and someone who I could send these notes to about, this is what happened today, and make sure you keep it, because I was terrified that he was going to get into my phone and erase pictures and audio recordings and text messages that he sent me. And I eventually had my child and hoped, like many did, that things would get better, and they didn’t. The abuse happened the night before I delivered and started again five days later, which was unimaginable. And the level of despair and shame and hopelessness that I felt, is something I now realize is so common. But I felt completely alone. In my experience, I thought I had never met any other survivors of domestic violence. And I stayed as long as I could because I knew that if I left, I was likely to have to share custody. And I just didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, and I was. My reaction to this trauma was to freeze. And on July 17 of 2019, I had gone out for dinner with a friend who was a single mom, and that seemed to be very threatening to my abuser. I got home and did what I always did, which was to avoid him, and go upstairs and say, I’m taking a bath. And I got a text message saying, you didn’t give me a hug when you came in. And that really hurt my feelings. Please come downstairs and give me a hug. And I was on the phone with my best friend, and I said, I’m just going to do it because I can’t deal with another four days of, fighting. I just can’t do it anymore. And she very smartly said, you know, it’s not fighting, it’s abuse. And if you go, what if. What if you go downstairs and he kills you? And I said, he’s. He wouldn’t. That won’t. That’s not gonna happen. And I went downstairs and was strangled, which was the scariest moment of my life. And I was extremely lucky to have a really good shelter rescue dog who attacked my abuser, who was my husband at the time, and allowed me to get away. I went upstairs and did what I had always done, which was to google what had just happened. So every incident of abuse, I would google it. I would write a note. And when I googled strangulation and found out that I was 700 times more likely to be murdered by him now, I called my best friend, and in doing that, knew that this was over and that there was not going to be a way for me to stay or take this back. And so I called her, and I said, you need to call my brother. And father in the morning and tell them what happened, and then we’ll call the police. I knew in that moment that in order to keep myself and my child safe, calling the police immediately was probably not the best idea with him in the house. So I convinced him that it was okay and I was okay with it and that I just needed some space. So in the morning, I needed him to go to his mom so that I could just have some time alone because I was terrified. He agreed, and I called the police, and I have never had to see him again, and neither has my child. Wow.

Jenna Mayne: That’s just an incredible story. I can’t believe you had to go through that. Amy. I just think you’re so brave for sharing your story now and for everything you’ve been through. So thank you for sharing it with us so that others can learn from it and they can be safe and just all the work that you’re doing, it really is so incredible.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you. Yeah. when I was in the relationship, I did a lot of trying to find other people who had been through this and, like, to the point of looking up celebrities, and all I could find was Pamela Anderson, who’s wonderful and an incredible survivor and all of these things. But it was only once I left. And because of my ex’s position, this went viral on Twitter. This was all over the news in the US and in Canada. And what started as horror and shame, like, I took to bed, that everybody I’ve ever met now knows the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, and everyone’s going to think I’m stupid, and everyone’s going to judge me, and they’re going to think I’m a terrible mother. And instead, I was flooded with messages of support and flooded with messages from people being like, I’ve been through this. My ex husband was abusive, or my mother was abused, or my wife was in an abusive relationship before this. And the amount of support and help that people gave me, lawyers offering their time for free to help me strategize, and people from Twitter asking for my contact information so they could send me uber eats so that I wouldn’t have to cook for my kid, it was so incredibly heartening. And unfortunately, it’s so incredibly rare because most people don’t have that kind of support. And it left me in a position of realizing that if I was able to, and I’m able to because the outcome of my trials were positive, I’m able to speak about my experience and feel safe enough to do so. And I know how much that would have meant to me at the time.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah. I mean, m that’s just amazing to hear the messages of support that you received afterwards, after sharing your story, because, like you said, this doesn’t happen for everybody. And I think, especially when you were in the relationship, you didn’t have a ton of support. Thankfully, you had your best friend who you could lean on. But, you know, I’ve heard your story before, and you did not have a lot of support, even professional support, which I think is so upsetting. And I hate to hear that because there are support services out there, and I hate that you felt so alone, and had to navigate this by yourself. It’s dangerous and it’s scary. So I at least feel a little bit comforted knowing that after you kind of came out of it, that there was this flooding of support, because you really deserve that.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you. Every survivor really does. and when I was first told that this had leaked to the press, that his arrest had leaked to the press, and someone called me and said, don’t look on social media. And I thought to myself, like, my God, everyone’s going to believe him. People know him. He’s an outspoken advocate for women. He’s an outspoken advocate for women in sports. He goes on television and talks about how baseball players who abuse their wives should never be allowed to play the game again. And nobody is going to believe this. And instead, when I didn’t listen and ended up looking on social media, and saw all of these messages and then saw that the media that he was working for had fired him immediately because of public pressure. And really a lot of his power went away in that moment. His power over me, of everybody thinks he’s so charismatic and so great, I started to hear other stories from other people about things that had gone on between them and him, and it was really extremely empowering. And despite how exhausted I was from being in this two year abusive relationship and having a baby and having gone through this awful pregnancy, I at least had this leg up of people are believing me and people who and people are supporting me. And I was extremely lucky to have access to resources because when I called the police and they came, I said, you know, I have evidence of two years worth of abuse. I’ve kept evidence. I’ve kept logs. There are recordings. There are photos, there are text messages. The police said, well, we can only press two charges for the strangulation because we don’t have the manpower to go through your phone and go through your evidence and do this for you. So if you want, you could print out all of your text messages, find the metadata to authenticate them, figure out what crimes have been committed, and bring them back to us in a timeline, and then we’ll press more charges. As anyone who works with survivors or is one knows, after being abused for two years, you’re not exactly in the mood to spend six months going through evidence and educate yourself on the law and, you know, get sort of a master’s degree and in litigation. So I was very lucky that I was able to hire a, digital forensic expert who spent a ton of time going through all of my evidence and then said to me, okay, well, I’ve narrowed it down to 300,000 messages. You can take a highlighter and go through them and find, you know, anything that breaks the criminal code or anything applicable to civil code for your custody case. And when he saw my face, he said, you know, maybe you could hire a criminal lawyer. And I hired a criminal lawyer and sat with a criminal lawyer for 7 hours a day for close to six months, going through the entire relationship text message by text message, which was so incredibly traumatizing, and writing a timeline. And when I went back to the police and gave it to them, they said, okay, well, now it’s 21 charges. And that was really what changed the trajectory of this story. And until other survivors have access to that same. To the same ability to tell their stories in court and have a judge understand and have prosecutors who understand, nobody is really able to access justice.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think it’s incredible the amount of effort you had to personally put into this. You know, being able to hire somebody and spending hours and hours every day combing through this, that’s not something everyone can do. Like you said, the trauma that you’ve experienced afterwards, most people are not in the frame of m mind that they’re even capable of doing that. So it’s just kind of incredible that you were even able to get to this point that you were.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, I mean, it was awful and traumatic, and it was a massive privilege that I was able to do this. And even while doing it and being traumatized and not being sure if it was going to work, I was still aware that I was, you know, benefiting from tremendous privilege that most in the system don’t have access to and have gone on to try to work on advocating for other people to have that same situation, because my situation changed greatly. And it’s very topical to this podcast, but by my ability to keep my child safe, you know, I’ve often sort of compared it to, like, leaving a burning building and leaving your child behind. I don’t know too many parents who would leave their child in a burning building. Most would stay. And, when I felt like I was making a choice between my safety and my child’s, it wasn’t much of a question for me.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s something I was hoping we could talk a bit more about. Because your situation is, I don’t want to say unique, but unique to some situations in that you were pregnant and had the baby during this two year span of your abusive relationship. And, you know, I know it’s not uncommon for abuse to escalate when a woman’s pregnant, but I don’t think this is someone, something that everyone knows about. So I’m wondering if you could share a little bit more about this.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not something that most people know about, but it is pretty common. One in six abused women is first abused during her pregnancy, and one in ten pregnant women who go to the hospital are there for a domestic violence related injury. And these are like, staggering, staggering number, women in the US who are pregnant or have recently given birth are more likely to be murdered than die from any obstetric cause. So this is a massive issue in our society. And in my situation, he really, really, really wanted me to get pregnant. That was something he really wanted. I’ve always wanted a child. And I realized I was pregnant and knew that this was not an ideal situation and that there was a problem here. And when I went to him about it, he was so happy. And I said, you know, but the mood swings. And at the time, what I thought was a mental health issue that he was dealing with, that I was trying very hard to help him with and get, to therapists and do all of these things to focus on his emotional state and not mine. and that was enough for me to say, you know, this might not be a very good time, but he was very, very happy, which I now understand was because I was now under his thumb. The level of control that someone has when you’re about to make a life together, it’s a life sentence. You continue to have to deal with this person for the rest of your life. You can’t just leave. It’s not, it’s not over. And exposing your child to that, is, for me, was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. So the physical abuse started, really escalated during the pregnancy, which is extremely common. And I just couldn’t understand and couldn’t believe that this person that I fell in love with, who I trusted, who was, you know, everything I had ever wanted, was using this situation against me and didn’t seem to have any sense of, like, there’s a person living inside of me who you’re endangering, who, like, I don’t deserve this. But if in some world you think I do, how could you think that this child had anything, like, deserves this? and it didn’t matter. It was just a form of control. and I didn’t know what to do. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t tell anybody I was pregnant for a very long time. I was extremely uncomfortable. and I didn’t really know how I was going to survive this pregnancy. I was told many times by him that I would not survive this pregnancy. and I. It was the hardest, absolutely the hardest time in my life. And it was at that point that I started to reach out for help. I left him at one point, I made him leave, hoping that he would get help, that things would improve and realize that it had just gotten worse. I was getting 300 text messages a day, threatening me, abusing me. And it, became that my rejecting him and not letting him live with me was causing him to suffer more. And that was making things worse, that he would try to get custody of the baby, that I would not be able to keep the baby safe. And I was so worn down and afraid and isolated that I just at one point was like, okay, so come home. And there was an incident where, he was physically abusive to me in the elevator of my condo building. My reaction, which was so amazing to me still in watching the video, is that I just froze. He got out of the elevator after assaulting me, and I just stood there and I was holding my phone. And I never thought to call the police and all, my initial thought at the time was, oh, God, the doorman saw that. I’m so embarrassed. They must think I’m such an idiot. And I never thought to myself, what must they think of him? And I had my building manager call me and say, we don’t want him to be allowed in the building. I watched what happened on tape, and you’re having a child, and this is incredibly dangerous. And I feel like I need to call the police. And I explained to her that I thought I would be in more danger if that happened, that I was afraid that I would have to share custody. And I then did what so many do, which was, he’s going to change, and he doesn’t mean to do it, and there’s something wrong with him, and he’s lost control. Her face while I was saying this, I was just so, so humiliated and so scared that this video existed. And that video ended up really helping me to get away from him and to get him convicted. But giving birth was something that was like the level of fear that I felt in advance of giving birth and wondering if I was going to be abused while giving birth, if I was going to have somebody whispering threats in my ear. I begged my best friend to please be there when I gave birth. Our sons ended up being born. Her child is four years older than mine, but my son was born on her son’s birthday, so she missed her son’s birthday that year to be at my delivery, but did not leave my side, and the support of having a person who will do that for you. Her and her husband came to my wedding, and her husband handed me a check at the wedding, and I said, oh, there’s no card, and you just put my name on it. And he said, yes, it’s for your first hour with a lawyer. And people knowing that there were people like that that had my back, that were going to help me out of this situation when I was ready, but that weren’t threatening to stop being my friend if I didn’t leave now and weren’t mad at me and didn’t think I was stupid, but really understood that I was stuck and that I knew better about my situation than other people is something that I’ve come to realize the value of that, because there were other people in my life that were aware or had suspicions who said things like, unless you leave, I can’t speak to you anymore. I can’t handle this. And I understood their boundaries and why it was too much for them to deal with. But that did not make me feel supported in leaving. It made me feel more isolated and trauma bonded to my ex because he became the only person I could talk to about the abuse. He was the only person I could really talk about what was happening openly with, and that creates a very unhealthy bond as well. once my son was born, this sort of shape of things changed in that his behavior was no longer just affecting me, and I no longer had an urge to want to help him. I now had someone helpless who did need my care, and I did not want to be taking care of an adult that was abusing me. And I came to realize that this was not a lack of control, but actually an assertion of control over me. I realized that he was able to be abusive and violent and seemingly out of control, and then say, oh, I have to go to record a podcast now. I’ll be right back and hear him walk into the other room and be perfectly fine. And I didn’t have the ability to get over it and be perfectly fine immediately, so that changed a lot. And once my son was born, I realized that, this was not going to be tenable forever. And I thought my best shot was to try to document everything and be able to tell my story so that when I could leave, I would have a shot at keeping us safe.

Jenna Mayne: Wow. It’s just, it is amazing that you had the support of your friend. I’m so glad you did have that. But I can understand just the shame that you must have felt. I’ve heard this from so, so many women who go through this. You know, you can’t even see why someone might think what he’s done is wrong, because you’re, you know, the course of control. You’re just trained to think you’re in the wrong at all times. Right? So the embarrassment you must have felt and, the fact that that prevented you from getting help, it’s unfortunate. But also, like you said, you knew your situation best. You kind of knew how to keep yourself safe and when would be the right time to reach out, and you were able to do that. So I’m glad about that. And I think the other part of the story that’s so interesting is, you know, his career and what he did and how he would just flip like a switch. And I find that so chilling, that part, of your story, just how he was able to go into another room and welcome to the show. You know, it’s just, it’s, it’s really sickening, really.

Amy Kaufman: It was chilling. And at the time, I used to stand at the door and, like, try to psych myself up to, I should just walk in. I should just walk in in the middle of this live television appearance and explain what just happened and what he has just done to me. I don’t think I would have been safe. And it’s also worth, saying that I did know my situation best, and I was able to keep myself safe, but I was very lucky that I was because I didn’t have a magic ball, and I didn’t know what would happen. I did not think that he would. That I would be strangled. I did not think it would ever get to that point. and so I’m really lucky that I didn’t become a femicide. Statistic that day or in any of the days leading up to it. So it’s a very difficult thing to tell this story. And to be clear that, you know, I. I’m very lucky that I was able to survive this situation. It helped a lot that I was able to have all of this evidence. It ended up helping a lot that I had stayed until the point of strangulation, but I took a massive risk with my life and my child’s life, by doing so. So I certainly don’t advise that other survivors wait.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, this is true. And I do want to point out, for anybody listening, if you are in a situation like this, it’s so incredibly important to make a safety plan. and I do want you to know that there are support services out there. You can call us women’s crisis services. You can call our support lines, visit our website, our online chat, and get support, confidential, anonymous support that you need. Those support services are available. And it is really important, like Amy saying, to seek this support if you are able to.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah. The thing that I really tell other survivors, because I hear from a lot of them, to tell somebody, just tell. If you can tell one person, and that person can be anyone, it can be a stranger, it can be someone like me who speaks about being a survivor that you reach out to. It can be your friend, it can be a professional. but reaching out for support is extremely helpful. You will find other people who’ve been through it who want to help you out of it, who will remove the shame. And like I often say, when people reach out to me to tell me that they’ve been in this situation, I’m like, it’s. It’s a horrible club that nobody should have to join, but we’re in really good company in it. And it’s really inspiring to meet all of these other women who’ve been through it and see how cool and smart and formidable and powerful they are. And I’ve had so many different survivors and speaking to me have said, you know, you’re so strong and smart and. And you didn’t deserve it. And I realized that I always thought that it would be all these women who were so soft and weak. And he made me feel like it was because I have a strong personality or because I would speak out or I would fight back, that he was abusing me. And now I realize that this isn’t just happening to a certain type of person, but it’s happening to everyone.

Jenna Mayne: Exactly. And I think that’s the important part. And that’s something we try and get across here with the podcast is she is your neighbour. It happens to people in every neighbourhood of every background matter who you are. This can happen to you, and it does. And it’s kind of cool to hear you talk about the inspiring women you’ve connected with, because I know you’re close with Jennifer Kagan Viater and Anna Maria Tremonti, and we’ve had them both on the podcast, and they’re both so inspiring, and amazing as well. So it is kind of cool to hear the connections you’ve made through this, despite how horrible it was. And that that should have never happened.

Amy Kaufman: It should. It should absolutely never have happened. and it’s weird for me to reel it to say that, like, I’m lucky, but in such an unlucky situation, I got extremely lucky. And that was in part because I had access to these resources to really prove my story and be able to tell it. The media surrounding the case, I’ve often said that, like, if every domestic abuser was turned into a pariah by the media and had, you know, tens of thousands of people on social media ripping them apart and telling their employers that they had to fire them and that this is not acceptable in society, and that we don’t want people like this at our dinner tables or on our televisions or doing our root canals or representing us in court, this would change. Men have gotten, people have gotten away with this for far too long, and they continue to do it. My abuser did. He believed that he would get away with it. He did not think that he would go to jail. He did not think his career was ruinable. He did not think anyone would believe me, and he didn’t think I would leave.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And the other person in all of this that I think is, interesting to mention is the judge that you had on your case, too, who. Who really, when we’re talking about being, you know, lucky in an unlucky situation, I think that judge, is also someone who. Just an incredible example, really, of what other. Other judges could be like. I wonder if you want to share a bit about this.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah. So the judge in the, criminal trial, which my ex ended up pleading guilty, to all of the charges, because there was so much evidence that there was not much else he could do, and on my 13th prosecutor, because that is how many prosecutors that I went through from beginning of calling the police until the trial was completed, the court process was also significantly longer than the relationship itself, which is also very common. But I kept getting passed around to different prosecutors, as many do. I ran the gamut of prosecutors from people who were wondering why I didn’t want my child to have a dad to other prosecutors who understood course of control and intimate partner violence, who were great, and finally landed on a prosecutor who was a, ah, unicorn. And I truly believe that all of this happened because of his hard work and diligence and because he was the first lawyer that I worked with who said, what do you want and what do you think should happen, and what do you think is the most important thing? You know more about your story than I do. At that time, I was already working in nonprofit with other survivors, and he. We had a meeting, and he was like, can you explain course of control to me? Can you explain how this happened? Can you explain what I need to know? Because I’m working with a lot of survivors, and I don’t feel like I have a full understanding of that. And I thought to myself in that moment, like, okay, we’re going to get somewhere now. And we decided that even though it went out of bounds, that my victim’s impact statement should probably be more than what they were asking for, which is a big risk, because the whole thing could have gotten thrown out. But I explained coercive control in my victim’s impact statement, and I talked about the experiences of the survivor, other survivors I was speaking to, and that this is the 13th prosecutor I’ve worked with and how difficult this system was, how traumatizing the system was, and just what my ex had tried to do. And I explained about, like, you may think this is. This is a lack of control. This is a person who can control himself. This is a person who was able to do media, who was able to do these things. In explaining all of that, the judge, first of all, listened and cried and showed empathy and understood that this was something that was happening all the time. He acknowledged that he would not have believed me if I had not had all of this evidence and what a huge issue that was and that the burden proof had basically been on me, both financially and emotionally. Instead of the crown, he had received 14 letters of support from my ex’s friends and family. And a, lot of people asked this question, so I will address it. They’re like, were there any baseball writers? There were not any baseball writers. nobody from his professional career supported him. But his friends and family wrote letters about how shocked they were, how much he had been through, and how impressed they were about how well he handled this and how well he was able to rebuild himself and rebuild a career and find a new girlfriend that works often, that works in. In other courtrooms. And the judge said, like, this just shows how insidious this problem is and how no one would have believed the victim if she hadn’t said anything. And this just shows that the abuser is able to show us one version of himself while behaving like a totally different person in his intimate relationships. The prosecutor had asked for twelve months. The judge sentenced him to 21 months. For the first time in three years or so, I could breathe. This feeling of safety that I had, that he was in jail was like. It was like a high, of being able to function and walk down the street and not look over my shoulder and not be afraid that when my child went to the park with his daycare, that my ex could show up. so that was great. I was really lucky again that, you know, there had been so much public interest. And I was able to send Anna Maria Tremonti a message saying, I think I’m ready to talk about my story. And I know you’re retired, but you’re kind of the only person I feel comfortable talking about it with. And she was like, okay, let’s do it. Doing that interview led to so many people reaching out, both who wanted to be able to do what I did, which was a very difficult conversation to have over and over and over, which ended in, if you don’t have the resources, there’s not much of a solution for you. the poor digital forensic specialist who worked for my case suddenly started getting multiple calls from me a day, being like, you have to do it for free. You have to do it for free for her. and he does, but he doesn’t have enough time to deal with all the survivors out there. And also from that interview, people started to reach out to me. People who were in sort of the tech sphere, who were like, this can’t really be. This can’t really be the way that this works. Am, I misunderstanding that you had to spend all of this money and read every text message, that there is no software that could do this. There’s software for corporations that need to call through hundreds of thousands of pages in explaining to them just how vast the problem was and how many people are experiencing this. We’ve got to a place of, okay, let’s try to build something that makes it so that other people can replicate what you did and make it so that their cases are taken seriously, so that police are pressing the right amount of charges. so that was a really wonderful thing. And where my career has sort of gone, and it also led to a lot of people watch these stories, and I didn’t realize the power of it until it was time for him, until his parole hearings, where I would. The parole board just kept rejecting his applications for parole. He only got out, when he was. When he had really completed his sentence. And it’s very rare, especially in Canada, that somebody is denied parole when they haven’t gotten into any trouble while in jail. But they were aware of just how insidious this was, how dangerous this was, and of just how well he hit it. And so in talking with them, and they called me and said, you know, we read your victim’s impact statement, and it really caused us to understand just what was happening and that him telling us that he was a changed person, we didn’t really believe that after seeing all of those clips and the support of the public comes into that, because a baseball writer who I won’t name, a male baseball writer who was so incredibly supportive and helpful and who I had never met, they had just worked together, and he was just an ally and a helper. And I got a call and he was like, I see the statement of facts and I see the dates, and they coincide with the dates of him doing live television. Would you like me to go sift through the archives and find all of the videos of the live television? And he went and spent days and days doing this for someone he had never met, for a child that he probably never going to meet my child. And he just thought this was the right thing to do. And the positive experience I had in coming forward was that I found helpers. And I realized that there are all these people who want to help. right now I’m sitting in a strategist’s boardroom, who offered to let me use his space in Toronto to record this, who’s helping me with this startup, because he sees the benefit of victims having access to a way to tell their stories and to be believed, and sees how important this issue is. I was very ignorant prior to being in an abusive relationship. I used to hear this subject and think, why didn’t she? What’s wrong with her? Why didn’t she leave? And I used to say things like, if my partner ever hit me, he would wake up at a funeral home. I would leave. I would be gone so fast. And it’s really easy to think that until you’re in the situation and not enough people understand that the same way that people join gangs or people join cults, people end up in abusive relationships, and there is a grooming process at the beginning that I wish that I had understood and maybe recognize that. That gut feeling I had that this seems too good to be true and something is off was completely accurate.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And it’s interesting, you know, just talking about the people who supported you and thinking about how we can support others. I know you’re doing so much work now to support other women who are going through this. and something we always like to ask as a part of this podcast is, you know, how do you think we can be better neighbours to people who are experiencing domestic violence? And I’m wondering what your thoughts are and if you could share some of the work you’ve been doing.

Amy Kaufman: yeah, definitely. So, I mean, I had really, really, really great neighbours. and when this all happened and my ex was arrested, my best friend and my brother went down the street and rang doorbells and told people what had happened. And I suddenly had like, a squad of teenage boys walking my dog and people dropping off food and neighbours who were so kind that they were like, we’re going to put in security cameras at our house just to make sure they’re actually going to face your house. Is that okay? But we just want to make sure you’re okay. And here’s our phone number. And I had neighbours checking on me and the support and people who were really clear that this was not something I should be ashamed about. And those who were generous enough to share their stories were really the ones that made the difference. So not every survivor is comfortable speaking about their story. And the onus should not be on survivors to have to tell their stories. But for those of us that are comfortable and feel safe telling our stories, there really is tremendous power in that. I’ve been in so many situations in the back of taxis, at hairdressers, at dentists, and just all sorts of situations where I will explain the work I do and they will say, oh, what made you do that work? And I’m like, well, I’m a survivor of domestic violence. And how quickly that leads the other person to being like, oh, I’m also one. Or my partner has a really bad temper, and I don’t really know if it’s abuse. And just these conversations need to happen. They need to happen more often. They need to happen with our children. This shouldn’t be a secret. Victims shouldn’t have to be hiding. Everything for me was so scary in the dark. And the moment that I turned the lights on and said, this is what’s happening, and I need help. So many people met me where I was and helped me, and I know that that’s not everyone’s situation, but there really are a lot of us who’ve been through this and who are working really hard to try to help other people out of it. So reach out to an organization, find a support group. Read, why does he do that? By Lindy Bancroft. Educate yourself, because the more that you learn about this, the more empowered you’ll feel and the more you will realize where the shame belongs. And that’s with the person who’s choosing to abuse.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that, Amy. I know you’ve been doing a lot of incredible work as well. Did you want to touch on some of that as well before we go here?

Amy Kaufman: Yeah. So, I mean, a few of the things that we’ve been working on, they’re different wiis. myself and a group of survivors do a lot of advocacy. One of them, whose name is Julie Ryu, is really inspirational. She’s a survivor as well. And she, initiated petition e 4517 after discussion with many other survivors about the parental alienation trend that’s taken over our courts. And I don’t think that people are as aware that this parental alienation has been deemed by the UN as a pseudoscience. And they have said that it needs to be banned absolutely everywhere. It’s being used in our court systems as a rebuttal to admissions of domestic violence. And when a mom leaves and says that she’s been abused, often dad’s lawyer will turn around and say, mom is alienating dad. Mom is making this up to torture him. it is often a very sexist stereotype that plays into the fact that women aren’t trustworthy and that they make up stories of domestic violence to get revenge on their exes. This is not based in any science. It’s not a part of the DSM, and it’s being used in court, by experts with no credentials. And the end result, and I’m sure you see this in your shelter, is that some moms are having their children taken away from them, and they’re being placed with abusers and their moms in Canada who don’t have any access to their children for reporting domestic violence. So it’s. This needs to be banned. the petition has gone through to the next round. We are hoping that, Minister Varani will get back to us soon and have a meeting about this, but it’s really great to have all of these safeguards for survivors, and it’s really great to change the system. But if we are being told that it may. That we may lose our children if we speak about domestic violence, then it doesn’t really matter what’s out there to protect survivors. If we can’t say that we are survivors. And far too many women are staying in relationships that are abusive because they’re afraid that this will be used against them in court. So that’s an important thing that we’re doing. And then the other thing that I’m doing full time, was I co founded exhibit. And we’re working very hard to build a platform that will allow litigants, and especially survivors of domestic violence, to do what I did in a much more palatable and affordable way that’s accessible to anyone who needs it. Where you can plug your phone in and using modern technology, which is so rarely offered to survivors of domestic violence, you can find the text messages that admit to abuse. You can find your notes. You can find photos and your video recordings. And the average couple is exchanging 60 to 70 texts a day. And in abusive relationships, it’s often much more. And the survivors that I work with all have evidence. They just don’t have a way to authenticate it and get it in front of a judge or get the police to look at it. And far too many survivors are having peace bonds for relationships that involve years of assault and abuse. And coercive control plays a huge part in this, and many of us struggle to explain exactly what it is, and it’s a pattern of behaviors. And we are working on using technology to identify this pattern so that you can then go to court and say, this was the pattern. It happened 48 times in the last year and show the full spectrum of what a, survivor is going through, so that judges who aren’t like the judge that I was in front of, who did understand course of control, have a chance at being believed and at getting proper outcomes and at going to family court and protecting their children. If I hadn’t been able to use my evidence, I would be sharing custody. I don’t know what that would mean. I don’t like to think about what that would mean for my child. but I have the happiest five year old who has never had to know this person, who understands some level of the story, but knows that we’re safe and knows that I fought really hard, and every survivor and their children should be able to say the same thing.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that, Amy. And thank you for all the work that you’re doing and just for being here for today. It’s just so incredible. And I’m just so grateful that you here and shared your story with us. So thank you so much.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you. And thank you for the really important work that you’re all doing to support survivors. It makes a massive difference.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag she is your neighbour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

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