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Cycle of Domestic Violence

Most abusive partners exhibit a behavioral pattern that has been described as a cycle of violence.  The cycle of violence has three phases:

Tension Building: This is where the abusive partner may isolate his or her partner, putting the other person down, yelling  and making threats, destroying property, and criticizing the victim.  Abusive partners may deny responsibility for their actions; they would blame their partner, work, traffic, getting drunk, or anything else except their own behavior and actions.

The partner experiencing the abuse may attempt to calm the abusive partner down by being very agreeable or withdrawn, or by trying to reason with the abuser.  During this stage of the cycle the person experiencing the abuse may feel like she or he is walking on eggshells.

Abusive Incident: This phase can involve a one-time slap, push, or punch, or it may be hours of repeated beating and ritualistic terror with objects or weapons used to further injure the victim.  During this phase the abusive partner may hit, choke, humiliate, imprison, rape, beat, or verbally abuse and torture the victim, and blame the victim for his or her actions and behavior.

Victims may seek to protect themselves and/or their children any way they can.  This could involve reasoning, leaving or fighting back.

Honeymoon Stage: This is when abusive partners may minimize or deny the abuse, beg for forgiveness, promise to get counseling and never to hit their partner again, cry, send flowers, want to make love, or enlist the support of friends and family.

During this stage, victims may minimize the nature and extent of the injuries (“It could have been worse”). Victims may agree to stay or take the abusive partner back, stop legal proceedings, set up batterer intervention counseling for their partner, and feel hopeful that their partner will change. 

Most victims of domestic violence (and their children) recognize the behavioral pattern of their partner and attempt various coping mechanisms to prevent or decrease the severity of impending battering.  Usually, no matter what the victim attempts to do to prevent the abuse, it still occurs.