Cycle of Abuse

Domestic violence tends to follow a specific pattern where in time the battering incident stage becomes increasingly longer and more severe and the honeymoon and tension-building stages become shorter.

The cycle works to keep the female partner in the relationship by controlling them and instilling a sense of hope that these incidents are temporary and will stop. Eventually, the violence becomes significant enough that the female partner is unable to leave for a number of reasons including fear of retaliation, injury or even death.

The tension-building phase

The abuser is verbally abusive to the other. In this stage he becomes more possessive of, jealous, and aggressive toward her. Her reaction is to avoid conflict and “walk on eggshells” to keep the peace. She tends to be very nurturing and will do whatever the abuser wants. She may make excuses for the abuser’s behaviour during this phase. Over time this stage gets shorter and shorter with battering stages becoming increasingly longer.

The acute battering phase

The abuser is extremely unpredictable and is out of control much of the time. The abuser will blame his partner for the abuse and sometimes will lash out outside of the home. Abuse may not necessarily be physical; it can include verbal, emotional and psychological including humiliation and intimidation. She may be left to endure the abuse, accept it and minimize it to herself and others.

The honeymoon or manipulation phase

The abuser is calm, loving and apologetic for his behaviour. In this stage he may make promises to never hurt her again (i.e. “It will never happen again”). She may feel a tremendous amount of guilt for wanting to leave the abuser and hopes the abuser will change. This stage gets shorter over time as the battering phase becomes longer and more severe.

Source: University of Missouri, (1993-2006), published by MU Extension.