Victims of domestic violence often experience repeated threats, violence, and intimidation, as well as physical, sexual, financial, emotional, and psychological abuse. Constant, repeated exposure to such abuse can have a profound effect on how adult victims perform daily activities, think, interact on a personal level, and view their sense of self.[1] Victims may also be in denial about the actual risk from their batterers and may take responsibility for the abuse.

The history of abuse experienced by adult victims and the concerns or fears they may have for themselves and their children create the context for their behavior. It is important for visitation center staff to understand this context in order to respond better to the needs of child(ren) and adult victims. Without such understanding, center staff may misconstrue a victim’s protective behavior as being unfriendly, uncooperative, or antagonistic toward staff or the other parent,[2] which may in turn distract staff from ensuring safety for adult victims and instead focus their attention on the batterer’s articulated needs.

It is also important for visitation center staff to understand that the victim of domestic violence may not be the custodial parent; and that although both parents may have a criminal record, only one of the parents poses an ongoing risk to the children or the other parent, or that the parent with such record is actually the victim, not the batterer.[3]


[1] Nat’l Cent. for Victims Crime, Domestic Violence, at http://www.ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentView&DocumentID=32347#4.

[2] See Clare Dalton, Leslie Drozd & Hon. Frances Wong, NCJFCJ, Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide 25 (2004, revised 2006) (citing Am. Psychol. Ass’n, Issues and Dilemmas in Family Violence: Issue 5, at

[3] Id. at 13.