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Q&A: Kaz Cooke’s advice for women in abusive relationships

Kaz CookeAussie author and cartoonist Kaz Cooke is known for her sense of humour. Her pregnancy guide Up The Duff, made us laugh while we were at our most hormonal and it’s sequel, Kidwrangling, had us giggling through sleep deprivation, toilet training and tantrums.

But her latest venture is no laughing matter. Kaz has released seven ebooks based on must-have info from her bestseller Women’s Stuff – and ONE of them – Escaping Control & Abuse: How to Get Out of a Bad Relationship & Recover From Assault – has been made available for free.

We chat to Kaz about the Escaping Control & Abuse ebook and why it was important that it be available for every woman. We also talk about motherhood, giving and receiving advice and the hardships faced by today’s teenage girls …


Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

A. I’m glad that as a new mum I finally worked out that most people who give advice you don’t ask for are often trying to make themselves feel more sure by recruiting people to their way of seeing things. In other words, advice is often about what somebody else thinks they should do, not what’s best for you. This is liberating and allows you to see all advice as a buffet of options, rather than a compulsory “to do” list. What works for me may not work for somebody else. So in a way the best advice is – choose which advice to listen to. There’s rarely one “right” way to do anything.


Q. How did motherhood change you?

A. I got better at doing stuff despite being tired, learned how to use “free time” more efficiently, judiciously lowered my standards of personal grooming and changed my definition of “expensive haircut”, gave away almost all my high heels and  finally understood what friends who were already mums had been through (had to go round and apologise to them all for “not getting it”).


Q. What’s your best advice for new mums?

A. Be your own best friend. Don’t blame yourself for being tired, confused or in need of help. And don’t expect to have a mother’s “instincts” straight away. Parenting instincts come with experience and familiarity: they don’t arrive with the baby.


Q. Do you think things are tougher for girls growing up these days, compared to a few decades ago?

A. There’s more pressure on girls now to look “hot”, and to dislike their bodies and faces. On the other hand we should recognise social changes and new laws which make their advancement a bit easier in business and politics, and less discrimination against, for example, single mums. There are some things we take for granted that our great grandmothers would have been faint with gratitude about: ready-made sanitary products for periods from supermarkets, contraception, washing machines and laws allowing women to earn money and own property.


Q. Why did you decide to release the e-book on Escaping Control & Abuse: How to Get Out of a Bad Relationship & Recover from Assault for free?

A. All my ebooks are about giving women info for a small charge, to help them with every challenge and life stage – from finding a lump in their breast, improving their sex life, dealing with feral periods or menopause, deciding what to do about pregnancy, and more. In the case of how to escape a controlling or abusive relationship, it felt right to offer it as free service to all women and girls. We released it on International Women’s Day as a gesture of support. I’m proud to work with Penguin Australia publishers, editors and designers on this important title and for us to forgo any money for this one.

I want the ebook to be available to absolutely everyone: from those who want to just have a look at the checklist of symptoms of a controlling relationship, through to those being emotionally and physically abused. My books are all about friendly advice and giving options, but also giving practical ways to get help, or sort yourself out, backed up by expert advice.

“There’s lots of positive
info in this ebook
although I admit
the other ebooks have
more jokes than this one!”


Q. Your book contains a lot of quotes from women who’ve been in abusive relationships. Were you shocked by a lot of what you read?

A. In reading the letters from women I was shocked at what many had endured, but also so admiring of women who’d managed to get out of dangerous and difficult circumstances, even those who took years in some cases, to get out. It’s clear that sarcastic, controlling and abusive relationships happen to women of all ages regardless of what they look like, how educated they are, how rich or poor they are, whether they’re in the country or the city.


Q. There will be some women reading this who aren’t sure if their relationship is really abusive? what advice do you have for them?

A. My advice is for all women who are uneasy about aspects of their relationship, for women who feel that they are confused about the way their partner treats them, or recognise a higher level of anger and uncertainty in the relationship, for women who relate to the idea of “walking on eggshells”, and for all women whose partner makes them feel worse, not better about themselves. Women in those situations should definitely read this free ebook or contact one of the counselling services mentioned in the ebook and talk it through.


Q.When should women get out of an abusive relationship?

A. I asked the 7000 women who participated in the Women’s Stuff survey what advice they had for women in abusive or controlling relationships – of 336 questions in the survey it was the answer that showed the most similarity in the thousands of responses – every single woman who’d lived in, or were still in, an abusive relationship advised other women to get out the first sign of abuse. I found this solidarity very moving, and it seems pretty persuasive to me. Having said that, many women spend a while – in some cases years – getting up the courage and working out their emergency plan, perhaps finding somewhere safe for children and pets. This planning and moving at your own pace is something the ebook gives lots of practical assistance with. I’d say the best time is: as soon as you can make a safe plan to leave or to legally require him to leave. And as I say to women: there is help available, and you will get your self esteem back. There’s lots of positive info in this ebook although I admit the other ebooks have more jokes than this one!

Photo credit: David Johns

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