The Cycle of Domestic Violence
In 1979, psychologist Lenore Walker found that many violent relationships
follow a common pattern or cycle. The entire cycle may happen in one
day or it may take weeks or months. It is different for every relationship
and not all relationships follow the cycle—many report a constant
stage of siege with little relief.
This cycle has three parts:
- Tension building phase—Tension
builds over common domestic issues like money, children or jobs.
Verbal abuse begins. The victim tries to control the situation by pleasing
the abuser, giving in or avoiding the abuse. None of these will stop
the violence. Eventually, the tension reaches a boiling point and physical
- Acute battering episode—When the tension peaks, the physical
violence begins. It is usually triggered by the presence of an external
event or by the abuser’s emotional state—but not by the victim’s
behavior. This means the start of the battering episode is unpredictable
and beyond the victim’s control. However, some experts believe
that in some cases victims may unconsciously provoke the abuse
so they can release the tension, and move on to the honeymoon phase.
- The honeymoon phase—First, the abuser is ashamed of his behavior.
He expresses remorse, tries to minimize the abuse and might even
blame it on the partner. He may then exhibit loving, kind behavior
followed by apologies, generosity and helpfulness. He will genuinely attempt
to convince the partner that the abuse will not happen again. This loving and
contrite behavior strengthens the bond between the partners and
will probably convince the victim, once again, that leaving the relationship
is not necessary.
This cycle continues over and over, and may help explain why
victims stay in abusive relationships. The abuse may be terrible, but the
promises and generosity of the honeymoon phase give the victim
the false belief that everything will be all right.
Why do Abuse Victims Stay?
Domestic Violence in the Suburbs
What is Domestic Violence?