Mums In Need: Support for mums who are escaping coercive control
Sara Ford . 18th May 2022.
Mums In Need: Supporting mums escaping coercive control.
Mums In Need - The background:
Mums In Need (MIN) is a Sheffield based charity that supports mums who are fleeing domestic violence. We were founded to support mothers who have been subjected to domestic emotional abuse and violence. MIN provides practical guidance and emotional support to mums who have left abusive partners but are still suffering ongoing coercive control after separation. We work with mums to empower them with the skills and confidence to move forward with their lives after the relationship has ended.
Mums In Need acknowledge that there are many organisations who provide support to women who have experienced domestic violence, so what makes Mums In Need so unique? Why do we support mums who have left an abusive relationship and what types of abuse are they escaping? Keep on reading this blog to find out the answers to all of these questions.
Recognising domestic violence and its characteristics:
Before we discuss why we are a unique charity for survivors of domestic abuse, it is important to discuss the characteristics and the wide variations of domestic abuse. It is only after understanding the depth of the term domestic violence, that you might be able to understand why our services are different to the larger national charities for domestic violence.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists describe domestic violence as being any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling and threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between anyone over 16 years, who are or have been intimately involved with, or who are family members.
There are multitudes of behaviours that can be defined as domestic violence. The NSPCC states that there are 5 categories of domestic abuse, which are: emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological.
Mums In Need acknowledges that abuse doesn’t have to be physical. Moreover, we believe that the other types of abuse are just as debilitating and harmful, because it is harder to recognise that it is happening to begin with. When you are unaware of your environment, it is harder to do something about it. This behaviour is what we describe as coercive control.
Women's Aid describes coercive control as controlling behaviour that is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive control has been a criminal offence in the UK since 2015, which is a step forward to tackling domestic abuse.
Many people choose to focus on the physical aspect of domestic violence as it is better understood, and the evidence it leaves behind is more obvious, but emotional abuse can be equally debilitating.
Emotional abuse is much more subtle and utilises the drip-drip effect. Abuse often starts small and infrequently, such that incidents in isolation might not be considered abusive. Victims will often not recognise that they are in an abusive relationship because it is so gradual. The abuse often escalates, to the point where they become victims of intimate terrorism. These behaviours give the perpetrator power over their partner, making it more difficult for them to leave.
Mums In Need recognises that what happens beyond physical violence is largely unseen by other services, with many victims falling through the cracks. We are working to make the invisible, visible.
Continued abuse after the relationship has ended:
We have discussed the characteristics of domestic violence, and discussed the reasons that not all abuse is easily recognised. Once a mum has made the decision to end their relationship and removes herself and her children away from the abusive environment, there is significant risk that contact will remain with the perpetrator and therefore the abuse will continue because of shared parenting responsibilities. This is what we refer to as post separation abuse. In this circumstance abuse is used to maintain power and control even after the relationship has ended.
Some examples of post separation abuse are: exerting control over parenting arrangements or counter parenting as a way to punish the victim for ending the relationship. The perpetrator may make excessive court applications to maintain control, or may try to damage your reputation by making up rumours or spreading lies. They could also seek to limit financial help as a way to punish the victim.
There is also a possibility that the perpetrator could continue to exhibit their behaviours onto the children, making it an unsafe environment for the child. The behaviour patterns that the perpetrator displays in co-parenting situations are designed to cause a significant amount of emotional conflict, decimate the victim’s emotional stability, and portray the victim in a negative light to family, friends and court systems.
Impacts on mental health and wellbeing:
Experiencing domestic abuse can have considerable effects on mental health and wellbeing. Some of the side effects include: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PDST), including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts. Depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Children can also be significantly affected by domestic abuse even if they are witnesses rather than experiencing the abuse themselves. Children can be more likely to suffer from emotional behavioural problems. The effects of this might include: feeling fearful, anxiety, depression and can have a negative impact on academic studies.
Mums In Need recognises that there is limited support for mums and their children who are experiencing abuse after separation, and are delighted to be able to offer our help and support to these families.
What makes us stand out from other organisations?
We have discussed the characteristics of domestic violence, and the reasons that it is likely to continue after a relationship has ended, it is now time to discuss Mums In Need, and what makes us stand out from the other organisations that offer support to domestic abuse survivors.
Firstly, we aim our services to the mums who might struggle to find support from the larger organisations for domestic abuse survivors.
Other services often fail to see the abuse that occurs which isn't physical. Many mothers are left struggling to find the understanding and resources to cope with ongoing, often invisible abuse. This can be a lonely and desperate situation that impacts work-life, other relationships, motherhood and physical and mental health.
Also, other charities will support women to leave an abusive relationship, but have little support for the ongoing abuse after they have left.
We are here for those mums who would otherwise struggle to find the support they need.
What's unique about our support:
We provide our Mins (our service users) with support right from the start of their referral and will continue to support them for as long as they need us. We provide them with more than basic practical support, and offer an array of personalised services that are also designed to improve emotional and physical wellbeing.
We provide our Mins with an array of practical support to help them move forward with their lives. Some examples are:
Support and advice via 1:1 caseworker sessions.
Practical support via peer support groups.
Signposting to other services.
Financial support via workshops.
Legal support and education
We are a local charity based in Sheffield, which means we are in close proximity to the women that we support. This allows us to organise peer support sessions that allow our Mins to meet others who understand their thoughts and feelings, but will give them a chance to make new friendships that will continue long after our services are needed.
Now that the pandemic is coming to an end, we are anticipating that more of these sessions will be face to face in the near future.
Another advantage to us being a local charity is that we have support from many local businesses, who partner with us to provide additional services to support our Mins. Examples include:
BetterMinds - emotional wellbeing sessions.
Space to Breathe - Provides tools and wellbeing techniques.
Through support from local businesses we are able to offer our Mins with sessions to help with personal wellbeing.
LP BodyGoals - Weekly fitness sessions.
Bloom Sheffield - (Coming Soon) Weekly sessions enjoyed with peers. Learning about and taking part in gardening.
Holistic therapeutic sessions.
Arranging (Ad-Hoc) days out to be enjoyed with children.
We ensure that all of our Mins receive the help that they need, and are delighted to be able to help the women who would struggle to find support from the lager national charities out there.
To conclude, Mums In Need is a local charity that supports mums in the Sheffield area who are leaving domestic abuse.
We recognise that domestic abuse is much more than physical violence and understand that other forms of violence are harder to recognise and therefore it is harder to escape from, even after the relationship has ended. We recognise that domestic abuse can have a negative impact on mental health, therefore we provide an array of services that are aimed to provide practical support for our mums who are escaping from an abusive relationship, but also provide services to promote and enhance their mental health and wellbeing as a whole.
We are here for the women who are going through these difficult times, and will help to give those women the confidence, skills and knowledge to be able to move forward with their lives.