Staying in Contact

This module will explore what responses are helpful to support people who have either chosen to remain in a relationship that is abusive or they have chosen to leave their relationship, but remain in contact with the other person.

Whether people decide to remain in a relationship that was or is abusive or if they have separated but remain in contact with each other, they may need ongoing support, requiring responses that reflect their situations.

Who is in contact?

Sometimes contact is by choice, sometimes by necessity, and sometimes it is ordered by a court. In addition, children are likely to have ongoing contact with the parent who is or was abusive, even if their parents are no longer together. The following are examples of people who remain in contact: 

  • Person remaining in a relationship with a partner who is or was abusive
  • Person has left a relationship with a partner who is or was abusive and has ongoing contact
  • Children who are in contact with either or both parents

It is important to learn about why people continue to be in contact with their partner in order to better support themAcknowledging this reality for parents and their children is important. The more we know about and understand the experiences of parents in an abusive relationship and the impact on their children, the better equipped we are as a community to meet their diverse and unique needs.

Communities are often organized to support a parent and their children when they are leaving a relationship that is abusive. Domestic violence programs, the criminal legal system, and children and family services, as well as other intervening systems, are designed to help parents and their children when they leave an partner/parent who is abusive.

Examples of common leaving strategies

  • Emergency shelter
  • Orders of protection
  • Domestic violence courts

These are important strategies for some parents who are in an abusive relationship and their children. The goal of providing advocacy and support for people who stay in contact with their partners is not to eliminate or get rid of our current “leaving” strategies. However, it is also important to explore additional strategies for parents who continue to remain in contact with their partners, even if they have left their relationship. This requires that we expand our work to be more responsive and reflective of the experiences and choices of all all parties and their children.

Examples of how to support people in contact

  • Supervised visitation
  • Parenting programs
  • Safety planning for people in contact
  • Fathering after violence 
  • Reviewing organizational practices and policies to remove barriers to better provide services and support
  • Training staff
  • Collaborating with other organizations
  • Building capacity for working with fathers/men

Consider 2–3 things you could do in your role to better support and advocate for people in contact and their children.