Survival story: Kay Schubach, a successful eastern suburbs woman who was abused by her partner and almost killed, has become a domestic violence ambassador. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Kay Schubach knows how insidious and secret domestic violence can be in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
When she desperately walked into Rose Bay police station, having been strangled by her new boyfriend, she was told it was one of the busiest stations in Sydney for domestic violence.
"There is a social cliche that domestic violence doesn't happen in the nicer suburbs and it's absolutely wrong," she said.
"It's more of a hidden menace. There's a whole different set of circumstances that keep it hidden – social stigma, embarrassment, maintaining the status quo. No one ever wants to admit the fairytale lifestyle has gone wrong."
Ms Schubach, 50, was working as a financial manager with celebrity clients when she was wooed in a cafe by Simon Lowe.
In just eight weeks, she had moved in with Lowe and started talking about having a baby. But her life resembled a "horror movie" with wild mood swings, controlling behaviour, insane jealousy and escalating violence.
"He would be critical and mean and then the next minute he'd be really loving and remorseful," she said. "I kept blaming myself, thinking I had done something wrong. I thought, as a successful business woman, there's a problem, I can solve it."
She had a good upbringing and successful friends. She had no idea what domestic violence looked like.
"I remember one of my girlfriends getting increasingly worried and telling me it was like I had battered wife syndrome. We didn't even know the term 'domestic violence'," she said. "It was not in my vocabulary, I had never been around it."
One night, Lowe tried to strangle her in their Point Piper apartment. With no idea where to go, she ran to Rose Bay police station but Lowe later coerced her into retracting the AVO they issued.
"We were down at Redleaf and he cleared this patch in the sand and wrote my parents address in Queensland in the sand," she said. "It was terrifying. He frog-marched me home and got the police on the phone."
Eventually a trip down to Melbourne to see some friends convinced her she had to leave. She asked the police to sit in her apartment while she threw all her belongings together and escaped.
Lowe was jailed for 12 years in 2008 for the rape and assault of another women. Ms Schubach was too terrified to give evidence at his trial but, instead, wrote a book, A Perfect Stranger, to process her ordeal.