Principle I of the Guiding Principles of the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) states that visitation centers should consider as their highest priority the safety of child(ren) and adult victims and should treat both with equal regard.

The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective

Visitation centers play a critical role in fostering the safety of child(ren) and adult victims during a time of increased danger when the parents separate.[1] As more visitation centers increasingly work with families experiencing domestic violence and respond to the needs of child(ren) and adult victims, it becomes critically important that center services build safety into their practices, management structure, and work within their community collaborative.

If safety concerns are not adequately addressed, supervised visitation and exchange can increase a batterer’s opportunity to commit continued, and sometimes lethal, violence against child(ren) and adult victims; to follow through with threats to abduct the children; or to further the abuse by stalking, harassing, refusing to cooperate in the exchange or visit, or attempting to coerce adult victims into returning to the relationship.[2]

Because of these risks, visitation centers have become an essential service for cases involving domestic violence.[3] It is important, therefore, for visitation centers to understand that the safety needs of child(ren) and adult victims are often linked. Research shows that the wellbeing of children exposed to domestic violence can generally be restored if adult victims receive support to create safety and stability in their own lives,[4] which in turn can provide a safer and more secure environment for the children.

Visitation centers are not expected to eliminate all of the dangers or risks present in domestic violence situations. However, with careful planning, centers can take steps that will enhance the safety of child(ren) and adult victims to the greatest extent possible.

Safety Specific Resources

  • Assessing Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Homicide by Jacquelyn C. Campbell et al., National Institute of Justice Journal (2003). This study of the Danger Assessment Tool finds that despite certain limitations, the tool can, with some reliability, identify women who may be at risk of being killed by an intimate partner. Read this study
  • On Safety’s Side: Protecting Those Vulnerable to Violence by Martha McMahon and Ellen Pence, Praxis International, Inc. (2008). This paper examines the practice of neutrality in relation to the protection of children and adult victims of ongoing abuse. Read this paper
  • Safety Planning by Jill Davies, Greater Hartford Legal Assistance (1997). This article discusses how to implement comprehensive safety planning for battered women using a woman-centered model. Read this article
  • Safety Planning for Domestic Violence Victims with Disabilities by Cathy Hoog, Abused Women’s Advocacy Services for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Revised January 2010). This protocol seeks to strengthen domestic violence advocates’ skills in identifying barriers to safety for survivors with disabilities. Read this protocol


[1] Walter S. DeKeseredy, McKenzie Rogness & Martin D. Schwartz, Separation/Divorce Sexual Assault: The Current State of Social Knowledge, 9 Aggression & Violent Behav. 675 (2004).

[2] Maureen Sheeran & Scott Hampton, Supervised Visitation in Cases of Domestic Violence, 50 Juv. & Fam. Ct. J. 13, 14; see also Peter Jaffe, Claire Crooks & Samantha Poisson, Common Misconceptions in Addressing Domestic Violence in Custody Disputes, 54 Juv. & Fam. Ct. J. 57, 60 (Fall 2003) (discussing one study where 25% of the women reported that their lives were threatened during access).

[3] Sheeran & Hampton, id.

[4] Susan Schechter & Jeffrey L. Edleson, Open Soc’y Inst., Domestic Violence & Children: Creating a Public Response 5-6, 11 (stating that women’s psychological well-being and mental health is strongly associated with obtaining multiple forms of social support including financial aid, social services, legal assistance, and informal social networks).