Principle IV states that visitation centers should treat every individual using their services with respect and fairness, while taking into account the abuse that has occurred within the family.
The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective
The goal of the Supervised Visitation Program is to promote the safety of children and adult victims of domestic violence during visitation and exchange. Individuals using visitation center services often do so because one family member has abused another. Because the majority of families who use visitation or exchange services are often doing so by court order, adult victims may feel re-victimized and powerless, particularly if they are the visiting parent; batterers may feel that the court and the visitation center are siding with the victim; and the children may feel responsible for the abuse and its consequences. In addition, individuals often view visitation center staff as holding positions of power, a perception that may be underscored if staff are not representative of the community in which the center operates.
Even so, visitation centers can still acknowledge the abuse perpetrated by the batterer and provide for the safety of children and adult victims while treating all individuals with respect and fairness. Treating individuals fairly and courteously, as well as recognizing each individual’s right to personal dignity, is a cornerstone to the provision of effective visitation and exchange services.
Understanding the issues that impact the individuals using visitation and exchange services, including issues of poverty, homelessness, immigration, and unemployment, will help visitation center staff gain and retain the trust of each person using the center. To that end, responses to battering behavior need to be accomplished in a manner that does not dehumanize the batterer. If a batterer has a positive reaction to using the visitation center, safety for children and adult victims may be enhanced.
However, visitation center staff need to be cognizant of the power imbalance inherent in a relationship where one parent has been abusive to the other. In such cases, fairness is rarely achieved through notions of sameness or impartiality. Each individual using the visitation center has her or his own unique experiences that must be accounted for in designing appropriate visitation and exchange services. Fair and respectful treatment of all individuals, while not ignoring the circumstances that bring families to the center, promotes the overall goal of the center—ensuring the safety of children and adult victims of domestic violence and holding batterers accountable for their actions.