Re-asserting Power and Control
in Child Visitation and Contact
Post-separation violence is a key aspect of gender entrapment. Violent men who (may) have been removed and encouraged to stay away by the police and the criminal courts have then been enticed back into their families through visitation and contact arrangements for children. Keeping in contact with violent fathers is almost always viewed as being in a child's best interests (Hester and Harne 1999; Mason 1999). This thinking, which was never based upon much evidence about what was actually best for children, has put separated women and their children at greater risk of abuse and harassment.
In this chapter, we critically review the assumption that children must have contact with fathers, and we show the negative consequences of contact between children and violent men. We present case study material to illustrate how contact can be used by violent ex-partners as a direct route to abuse of the mother, to abuse the mother by abusing the child or to control, harass and impoverish the mother through repeated court appearances and litigation abuse. In this chapter, we argue that it is vitally important that mothers feel safe about visitation and contact arrangements because it is in the child's best interests to have peace at home. In Chapter 7 we will develop the analysis of gender entrapment and litigation abuse by reviewing the law's approach to child custody, visitation and contact.
In America, the term 'child visitation' is commonly used to refer to a child's contact with the non-resident parent after separation or divorce. In England the term 'contact' is the norm. 'Contact' is used in the English courts to refer to direct contact visits, meaning the child's and non-resident parent's