What is the Purpose of a Partner Contact?
We (The ADA Program) have had a very long history of struggling with this issue. Since our inception in 1986 we have conducted the following methods of Partner Contact:
- We have written reports to partners.
- We have conducted a quarterly informational meeting for the partners of the men in our BIS.
- We have conducted a support group co-facilitated by a staff of our BIS and a staff of SAFE House (the local BWS).
- We have had a support group facilitated specifically for the partners of the men in our BIS facilitated solely by staff of SAFE House.
- We have had regular monthly outreach phone contact.
- We have had a monitoring committee which was facilitated by SAFE House and had several partners of the men in our BIS on it.
- We have confronted batterers in group with information partners have relayed information to us, after careful processing with her (and S.A.F.E. House at times) about the possible consequences.
- We have sent them informational packets about our program and services available to them in the community.
- We have had no contact unless of course we believed we had a duty to warn/protect.
After extensive discussions with our local BWS SAFE House, as well as others at various gatherings like Phyllis Frank at national NOMAS/EMV conferences we decided that we should not have contact with the partners of the men in our BIS unless of course we believed we had a duty to warn/protect. We came to the conclusion that there was no purpose in partner contact that promoted her safety.
Whose interest is it in?
The problems of partner contact include:
- What do we (BIS) do with the information she tells us? The list could end here as the problems this question raises are endless.
- If the battered woman is talking to the BIS, we are usurping the role of the battered women’s shelter in the community. BWS are the experts in offering her services. We do believe that the battered woman also wants to tell her side of the story, we just don/t think that the BIS is the one she should be telling it to.
- When the battered woman talks about being assaulted to the BIS, she may feel relief that she has told someone and may be less likely to make another call to the shelter. She may also think regardless of what we say to her about our role that we will be able to do something about this.
- The BIS contacting her, regardless of what they are saying to her about the (slim) chances of his making the choice to cease his violence, still creates a hope that he is in “therapy” and will get the help he needs to fix him. It has been noted that his getting “help” is the number one motivator in her staying with him or going back to him.
- Partner contact by a BIS is conjoint therapy by proxy.
- We do know what he is doing at home, if we want or need to be educated about these realities this should come from other battered women. This should not be about a reality check for us to gauge whether or not he is telling us the truth. It is most likely that he is not. He is telling us what he thinks we want to hear. Those men who are really struggling with the choice of accountability will demonstrate that struggle that in many ways.
- We know that batterers collude. We should not put her at risk to assure ourselves that this is happening.
- If we want to offer her resources, we should offer her the resource of the local BWS and the police, there is no other reason that we should continue to have contact beyond that point. If we are concerned about her safety we should be linking her with resources which can promote her safety, the local BWS or the police.
- If our contact with her is based on our wanting a clearer picture of what is going on at home, I have 2 questions:
- Why do we want this?
- Is it fair of us to put her in this position?
- We need to be focused on creating a coordinated community action. This is not occurring if a BIS is performing the function of a BWS.
We have heard others say that it was an important grounding in reality to hear from battered women, this is very true for us at ADA. Historically we have been involved in ongoing presentations/discussions on our program to shelter residents. We always felt that this experience was more about our learning than our teaching.
We in the BIS field must learn and listen to battered women, we just don’t believe that those battered women should be our service participants partners.
We do think that it is ideal for the battered woman to be contacted by the local BWS, to talk about the realities of BIS’s, services available for her in the community, safety planning, etc.