“The fear that if you leave he will kill you”

On Sunday I shared with you Amy Kaufman’s story of domestic violence1. She survived the beatings of Jonah Keri in a spiral of violence that could have been won. Throughout our interview, I asked myself a question, a tricky question, and I didn’t know how to ask it.

Posted at 6:00 am

Is there a sign she missed that would have warned Amy about the beatings that Keri was going berserk?

I say the question is sensitive because when you ask it you might think that the victim of spousal violence has some responsibility… And that’s not what I think.

I ended up asking Amy the question and telling her I was finding it difficult.

Answer: “It’s not a sensitive or inappropriate question,” she replied. I’m also speaking for educational purposes so we can talk about healthy relationships… Women have to look out for certain signs, yes. But above all, we have to educate our boys: We can’t perform like that…”


Amy Kaufman

Looking in the rearview mirror of her relationship with Jonah Keri, Amy Kaufman sees the two red flags she overlooked before the violence.

First, Jonah Keri interfered in his life with a lot of attention and kindness. He could call her ten times a day and send her flowers regularly—he sounded like something out of a romantic comedy.

Second, he unilaterally decided to leave Denver (where he had two children in joint custody) to live with Amy in Montreal (without consulting her).

“The red flag was when he decided to leave his kids in Denver to come and live in Montreal. Now that I have a child it seems over the top, suspicious. And all that kindness! It was crazy over the top… He knew how to exploit my weaknesses. »

But even there, despite that over-the-top friendliness, the constant presence of this new lover, Amy never thought it heralds the worst: “I never expected it to lead to a whim that would break my nose, that he would bite me, that he would hit me…”

I know the question you are asking yourself. Amy Kaufman heard her, also this question: Why didn’t she leave at the first act of violence?

Answer: “First there is fear. The fear that if you leave he will kill you. Your mental state becomes that of a tortured person. You accept your fate. And there was also the fear that he would kill the baby. Let him kill my father, my brother: he had told me that if I left he would do it…”

She points out that very few women leave their partner and report the first slap in the face. It’s part of the abuse and control dynamic. And if you think about it, if it were that easy, that easy, at the first act of violence they would leave…

That’s not the case.

Amy Kaufman split from Jonah Keri and filed a lawsuit in July 2019 after successfully stopping a strangulation attempt. A man who fails to strangle his wife explodes by 800% the risk that that woman will eventually become a victim of femicide.

Amy is proud to have made this gesture, a gesture of survival. But she still has bitter memories of the whole legal process, from interacting with certain policewomen (“The most empathetic cops were men”) to being forced to explain her story a thousand times over due to the multiple delays in the process depending on the circumstances Delays caused by his ex’s “therapies”…

I put therapy in quotes because Amy doesn’t think a man who abuses his wife can heal himself in a YMCA anger management class: “He didn’t hit in bars, in restaurants, or in parking lots. On the contrary, outside the home he was extraordinarily gentle and kind. He hit me when no one was looking. These therapies are a show to look good in court. »

In addition, Keri’s attorney, Mr.and Jeffrey Boro presented his client as a new man: “It’s not the same as it was two years ago. »

Amy Kaufman’s response: “The strategy was to show that he was sick and on the road to recovery. I didn’t have time for therapy. I built up my file and ran after Crown prosecutors who followed one after the other, I warned the police when Mr Keri broke his terms…”

She finds that the legal delays for the victims are unbearable: from Keri’s arrest (July 2019) to her conviction (March 2022) it was two years and four months, “that’s longer than my relationship with him”.

Amy Kaufman would like to point out a ray of sunshine in this legal saga: Attorney General Bruno Ménard.


Mand Bruno Menard

“He’s a unicorn, that guy…

“A unicorn?”

“He shall not exist!” He was amazing: from the first call to the end of the process, he wouldn’t give up, he wouldn’t let me go, he educated himself on the dynamics of domestic violence…”

Almost 3 months after her ex was sentenced to 21 months in prison, Amy Kaufman is coming back to life. The voice is solid, the gaze is open. His speeches were noticed in English Canada and the United States.

It is now acting on three fronts.

First, Amy works with victims of spousal violence within the Montreal organization Femmes warnedes/Women Aware2which supports women struggling with an abusive spouse.

“We have a lot of volunteers,” says Amy Kaufman, who are all survivors. The women who call us are speaking to someone like them who has experienced it, who will not ask in a judgmental tone, “Why are you staying?” »

Women in the Know helps survivors navigate the maze of complaints to the police, courthouse visits, claims for damages at the Crime Victims’ Center and rebuilding resumes “because it’s difficult to get back into the job market when you’re… have a gap of five, six years in your CV…”

Second, she works to ensure that the justice system adapts to reach the XXIand Century. She invokes the “Law of Keira”.3 ‘, Bill C-233 moving through Parliament, legislation that would require Canadian judges to complete domestic violence training. Keira is a 4-year-old Ontario girl who was killed by her father in February 2020. The father was from Keira’s mother, Dr.D Jennifer Kagan, whose concerns about her ex’s violence before the murder were ignored4.

Third, she gives interviews to teach about domestic violence. There is a chronicle like this.

The interview ends, I tell Amy Kaufman that she seems solid, that I hope the nightmare is over now that Jonah Keri is in prison and that his ex’s true nature is known across North America.…

Amy looks at me and says, “I’ll still be scared of him for the rest of my life. »

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