Through setting up a charity to help vulnerable mums escape emotionally abusive relationships, Laura Riley has come to realise the number of women who suffer in silence every day.
Having been subjected to psychological domestic abuse herself, Laura experienced a difficult break-up resulting in an agonising family court battle, which she describes as ‘utterly soul-destroying’.
Determined to prevent others struggling in the same way she did, Laura set up Mums in Need – an online charitable organisation which provides women with support to help them overcome fears and move forward with their lives.
“Abuse in all forms is horrible, but it is the psychological and emotional abuse, which often goes unnoticed,” said Laura, aged 35. “Day in, day out it has terrible effects such as anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and depression.
“Mums are more likely to stay in an abusive situations as they worry where they would start as a single parent – how they would keep their job, keep a roof over their head and provide for their children. This is where we can offer help.”
Laura runs Mums in Need with two trustees who currently provide support to women in the Sheffield area via email, telephone and Skype.
As well as having all come through emotionally abusive relationships, each has expertise in different areas. They can provide financial and benefits advice, life coaching and support for mums preparing to go to court over the custody of their children.
“Most mums want their child to have a good relationship with the father where possible, but if that individual has been abused by their partner they might not feel safe handing their child over to them,” said Laura.
“Often what has happened between a woman and her partner is not seen as relevant to the court case, and is therefore overlooked.
“The courts can be incredibly scary to mums, which is why we try to help them prepare. We can explain the process, help mums fill in forms, apply for legal aid and/or find a solicitor.”
In addition to practical support, Mums in Need also offers its members vital emotional support, which does not just come from the trustees.
Mums who sign up to the group are given a form to fill in so their needs can be evaluated and are also assessed on Skype, to check their identity. They are then given access to the charity’s secure Facebook site where they can network with other members, share their experiences and gain/offer advice.
“This has proved a lifeline to many women as they can talk freely in a safe environment with like-minded women,” said Laura.
A member of the group who wishes to remain anonymous agreed the Facebook group has been a massive help to her.
She said: “There is solidarity as well as practical support. Sometimes you just want to get things off your chest – the Facebook group gives you somewhere to vent any day or night. To be listened to and understood lets you know you’re not going mad.”
But Laura is keen to point out that by no means is Mums in Need a male- or father-hating group.
“We offer support specifically to mums because that is our experience and who we can relate to,” said Laura. “We recognise that males/fathers can also experience psychological and emotional abuse from a partner and signpost them to organisations where they can receive help relevant to them.”
For more information, visit www.mumsinneed.com