MacMillan, H.L., Wathen, C.N. & Varcoe, C.M. (2013). Intimate partner violence in the family: Considerations for children’s safety. Invited commentary. Child Abuse and Neglect, 37(12), 1186-1191. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.05.005.
Children’s exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is increasingly recognized as a type of child maltreatment that has a level of impairment similar to other types of abuse and neglect. Despite advances in the area of IPV, the safety planning strategies recommended as part of the overall response to IPV need to be examined in terms of their implications for children. This article discusses these strategies within the context of child safety, comparing IPV safety planning with approaches aimed at reducing exposure to other types of violence such as child sexual abuse, as well as general child safety strategies. Despite the emphasis on safety planning in information available on responding to IPV, the actual effectiveness of such planning in improving safety and reducing violence is unknown. Safety planning provided to children by a parent experiencing IPV, especially when IPV is ongoing and not recognized by anyone outside the home, may lead to confusing messages for children, particularly if there is an emphasis on secrecy. While awaiting evidence about the effectiveness of specific safety planning strategies for children, we suggest basic principles and general strategies that emphasize universality in terms of education about any type of violence or abuse in the home being unacceptable, as well as the need to focus on safety in general.