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Domestic violence involves a cyclical set of behaviors:

  • First, tension begins to build in the batterer due to unrelated factors which he attributes in some way to the victim;
  • Second, the explosion occurs in which he batters the victim;
  • Third, the explosion is followed by a ‘honeymoon’ phase, a period of contrition and apologies
    where the batterer uses every persuasion at his command to persuade the victim that the assault was unintended, he is very sorry and he promises not to let it happen again. The victim is so desperate to have the behavior cease that she may buy into the explanation, or worse, she may blame herself for “causing” the battering by not meeting the batterer’s expectations.

 

This cycle of violence will continue until the victim decides to end the relationship. Each stage lasts for different time periods in the relationship and the duration is often not predictable; the total cycle may take a few hours, a week, a few months or a year or more to complete. Emotional abuse is present in all three stages.

 

 

 

1. Tension Building Phase

 

The Victim

  • Feels like she’s walking on eggshells
  • Tries to reason with the batterer
  • Feels powerless to stop the next beating
  • Tries to calm the batterer
  • Tries to appease the batterer
  • Keeps silent, hoping to defuse the batterer’s anger
  • Keeps the children silent
  • Feels afraid or anxious
  • Prays for the tension to stop

The Abuser

  • Picks fights with the victim
  • Acts jealous and possessive
  • Criticizes the victim for everything
  • Threatens the victim with bodily harm
  • Is moody and unpredictable
  • Blames the victim for his feelings of anger and frustration
  • Drinks to reduce tension

 

 

2. The Explosion Phase

 

The Victim

  • Is assaulted by the batterer
  • Experiences pain, fear, shock
  • Wrongly blames herself for the violence
  • Is ashamed, humiliated, degraded, angry
  • Tries to flee, leave, escape
  • Is unable to gain control of the situation
  • May be so overwhelmed and frightened by the threat of violence that they initiate the
    confrontation to get it over
  • Worries about protecting herself and/or her children

The Abuser

  • Verbally assaults his victim
  • Physically assaults his victim
  • Sexually assaults his victim
  • Restrains his partner
  • Destroys property
  • Emotionally assaults his victim
  • Feels the victim needs to be punished; deserves the punishment
  • Assaults his victim with his fists, objects or
    weapons

 

 

3. The Honeymoon Phase

 

The Victim

  • Forgives the batterer; accepts his explanation
  • Feels guilty about leaving abuser; returns home
  • Wants to believe his promises
  • Is depressed, feels helpless, hopeless, and trapped
  • Is hopeful that abuse will cease
  • Blames self for incident
  • Minimizes or denies the abuse
  • Promises to change her behavior so as not to stress the batterer

 

 

The Abuser

  • Feels temporarily in control of self
  • Feels temporarily in control of victim
  • Feels shame and guilt
  • Is afraid of his violent behavior
  • Is afraid the victim will leave
  • Minimizes the abuse
  • Is contrite; asks for forgiveness
  • Promises never to do it again
  • Is afraid the victim will involve the police or
    courts
  • Becomes extremely affectionate and tender
  • Initiates tender acts of intimacy
  • Stops drinking and/or using drugs

 

The honeymoon stage lasts until some problem or circumstance initiates tension in the batterer and the cycle begins anew.