October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and, according to the Domestic Violence Awareness
Project, it’s centred on three key themes of:
- mourning those who have died because of domestic violence,
- celebrating those who have survived, and
- connecting those who work to end violence.
This means that it is also the perfect opportunity for charities working with people affected by
domestic violence to raise awareness of the vital work that they do, while highlighting the need to
join forces to end this type of abuse once and for all.
However, it is also important that people gain a realistic understanding of the breadth of domestic
violence, moving beyond the stereotypes and widely held views of it being only about physical
violence as is so often portrayed in the media. Indeed, for many, physical violence may or may not
be part of the picture. The rest of this article focuses on a type of domestic violence that is often
poorly understood and frequently hidden in plain sight: emotional abuse and, more specifically,
mums affected by post-separation emotional abuse.
Mums In Need (MIN) is a Sheffield-based charity working with mums affected by post-separation
emotional abuse. Founded in 2014 by Laura Riley (now the CEO ), it is a unique service providing a
variety of mostly in-person services for Mins (MIN’s names for their service users). Before diving into
the type of services offered, let’s take a look at why these mums need these services in the first
Sadly, through its work over the years, MIN has discovered that there is a very real unmet need for
support for mums affected by post-relationship emotional abuse. This type of abuse doesn’t really fit
the textbook definition of domestic abuse which is why it’s often overlooked as victims do not
necessarily meet the thresholds for receiving the services that they so desperately need. However,
this doesn’t make it any less devastating for the person on the receiving end of it and, if anything,
makes it even more necessary to shine a light on it.
There are two different aspects to unpick for a full understanding of this type of domestic abuse:
emotional abuse and post-separation abuse.
First of all, let’s consider emotional abuse. Coercive control is an umbrella term describing a pattern
of abuse which can include physical abuse, alongside other forms of invisible abuse such as
manipulation, intimidation and threatening behaviour used to terrorise the victim. Emotional abuse
is part of this spectrum, much more subtle and utilises the drip-drip effect. Where abuse 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. But then the abuse
escalates, to the point where they become victims of intimate terrorism, perpetually terrified to say
or do the wrong thing for fear of their partner’s reaction. Many different tactics are used include
gaslighting and financial abuse amongst others.
Post-separation abuse refers to patterns of abuse that persists after a relationship has ended.
This is particularly apparent when a victim of abuse shares a child or children with the perpetrator.
Co-parenting with an abuser is more likely under these circumstances and can be exhausting for the
victim. The seven signs of post-separation abuse are:
- Counter-parenting – An abuser may use a co-parenting arrangement to exert control. Small decisions become big conflicts and often end up in the courtroom. The abuser seeks to counter-parent and leverage issues to punish the victim.
- Parental alienation – Parental alienation is often alleged in direct response to evidence of coercive control. This is a weaponised response designed to minimise or obscure the abuser’s conduct.
- Abusive parenting – The perpetrator often exhibits abusing parenting behaviours, making contact unsafe. This could be physically or emotionally abusive parenting patterns or other unsafe contact.
- Legal abuse – It’s common for a perpetrator to make repeated aggressive court applications and utilise legal systems to punish or maintain control over their victims.
- Stalking and harassment – Often covertly, the perpetrator may stalk and harass victims. This can include monitoring social media, or enlisting others to stalk and/or harass the victims.
- Isolation – Perpetrators often attempt to damage your reputation personally, professionally or as a parent. To isolate you, they may target this behaviour to the children’s school, wellbeing or health support and the wider community.
- Economic abuse – An abuser may seek to stop or limit your financial resources. Often dishonestly, they may evade child support or fail to comply with financial orders.
(Credit: Survivor Family Network video (via Mums In Need website))
Imagine once you’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of abuse: potentially for many years as
most agencies either don’t recognise it or it’s not deemed serious enough to merit interventions.
This means that the mums going through it are, to all intents and purposes, dealing with it alone,
often while trying to parent in impossible situations. This is why MIN is a lifeline – they get it and are
right there for these mums when they most need support.
Mums In Need’s services provision
MIN offers wraparound services for the Mins, with a mixture of practical, emotional wellbeing and
personal wellbeing on offer (access to legal services and counselling is dependent on funding
These are comments from the Mins themselves:
“You made me, me again. I will forever and I mean forever be in your debt. You have no idea what you did for me. The weekly calls, the legal support…you set me free from a life of hell. You did all that…You saved my life…I wouldn’t be here today without you.”
“It was such a relief to find Mums In Need. At the time I was so overwhelmed trying to protect my children from emotional abuse. Professionals just didn’t get it. I feel understood and validated.”
(Mins’ stories – Mums In Need website)
Tackling the root causes of post-separation emotional abuse
MIN is also eager to tackle the root causes of post-separation emotional abuse so that, one day
MIN’s services are no longer needed. They aim to do this by advocating at the national level as the
expert voice in the field, with a focus on education, training and awareness raising.
Fundraising for Mums In Need
Domestic Violence Awareness Month seems a fitting time to launch a fundraiser for Mums In Need.
Every year, MIN sets a fundraising challenge of raising the exact amount of money to equal the year.
So, in 2024, this will be £2024 (#2024in2024). Annie Moon, MIN Trustee, has some exciting plans in
the shape of Annie’s Pet Sitting BIG Adventure aiming to do 24 pet sits around the UK and the island
of Ireland by the end of 2024. While on the road, she’ll be sending updates back from the pet sitting
front line, featuring some of the wonderful pets that she’s lucky enough to care for. And she won’t
be alone on her travels either – keep a look out for MINnie (#MINnieMascot), her cheerful MIN
teddy, cheekily popping up in many unexpected places!
- To discover more about Annie’s Pet Sitting BIG Adventure, check out the dedicated Givey fundraising page: https://www.givey.com/anniespetsittingbigadventure
- To receive the latest updates direct to your inbox about Annie and MINnie’s adventures, sign up to the MIN newsletter: https://subscribepage.io/3w12f9
- MINnie’s now even got her own Twitter channel! Follower her here: https://twitter.com/Mascot_MINnie
- To find out more about Mums In Need, head over to their website: www.mumsinneed.com
Written By Annie Moon.