Sudbury psychotherapist releases new book to help young people identify and escape relationship abuse
After 25 years of working with victims of relationship abuse and sexual violence, Cathy Press concluded that so much suffering could be avoided if people could recognise abusive behaviour from a young age.
The veteran psychotherapist has now released a new book, called When Love Bites – A young person’s guide to escaping harmful, toxic and hurtful relationships, which she hopes will go a long way to bridging this gap in knowledge.
The text explores the signs of abuse and coercive control, the impact it has on victims’ wellbeing, and how they can protect themselves, presented in an artistic design to make the topics more approachable.
Cathy, a founding trustee of Sudbury domestic abuse charity Compassion, runs Escape the TRAP (Teenage Relationship Abuse Programme) in schools and youth services nationwide, and also trains professionals specialising in domestic abuse.
“Working in this area for so long, it was not a surprise to find myself writing a book on these themes,” she told Suffolk News. “In writing it, I realised there was a much broader reach.
“There weren’t books on this topic. They tend to be more general. I’ve literally worked with thousands of victims of intimate relationship abuse over 25 years.
"It’s such a hard topic because we’re talking about abusive relationships and we can believe it’s all our fault.
“Young people hold so many myths about what is love and what is abusive. It’s not uncommon for them to believe that, if their partner didn’t hit them when they were angry with them, it means they don’t care enough, which is just such a warped belief.
“People are having relationships younger and, with digital technology, they can be victims of coercive behaviour within the four walls of their bedroom, and nobody knows what they’re going through.
“There’s no corner where they can hide now. Everything has become very skewed as a result of having this technology.
“If young people find themselves coerced into sexual behaviour and misconstrue that as love, how will they be able to identify what are abusive behaviours and what are loving ones?
"We have to help young people realise the link between how they are treated and how they feel about themselves, because it has such a direct impact on mental and emotional wellbeing.
“The book can help them recognise abusive behaviour. It explores the dynamics and the ways they are left feeling."
Despite the serious topics, Cathy, who also provides counselling with the Kernos Centre in Sudbury, designed the book with a colourful presentation, including tattoo-inspired artwork and poetry written by people who have completed the Escape the TRAP course.
She explained this was to make the difficult subject matter more approachable, adding: "Who wants to read something like that if it’s really dry and monochrome?
“It’s an incredibly colourful book. It’s designed to jump out and draw your attention to what’s important. It’s very relevant and very accessible.
“I initially pitched this book at people aged 14 to 25 but, having said that, a 75-year-old read it and said they saw they were in two abusive marriages and didn’t even realise.
“I’m just blown away by the response to the book. I’ve had reviews from people saying they wish they had a resource like this when they were young.”
When Love Bites is available now and can be ordered here.