Cycle of Abuse

CYCLE THEORY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Phase I. Tension Building

Batterer:

  • Experiences increased tension.
  • Takes more control.
  • May increase use of alcohol or drugs.
  • May withdraw emotionally.

Victim:

  • Tries to minimize problems.
  • Acts compliant, on good behavior.
  • Denies anger.
  • May withdraw emotionally or physically.
  • Has a feeling of “walking on eggshells.”

For both victim and batterer, the tension becomes unbearable.

Phase II. Violent

Batterer:

  • Exhibits unpredictable behavior.
  • Claims loss of control.
  • Is highly abusive.

Victim:

  • Feels helpless and trapped.
  • Is traumatized.
  • May react passively or fight back.

This phase usually lasts from two to twenty-four hours, but may continue occasionally for days or weeks.

Phase III: Calm

Batterer:

  • Is often apologetic and attentive.
  • Is manipulative (“If you drop the TPO, I’ll give you the car, give you a divorce, stop drinking, go to counseling, never hit you again,” etc. etc. etc.)
  • May cry, send flowers, buy gifts.
  • Can attempt to reawaken old dreams by saying, “We’ll take that trip we planned” or “We’ll move and start over in a new place.”

Victim:

  • Experiences mixed feelings.
  • May feel guilty, responsible, ashamed.
  • Considers reconciliation.

In some relationships there are shortened calm periods, or sometimes no calm period at all. The cycle becomes tension building to violence, back and forth, again and again. The phases of violence can also occur in a different order than started above.

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