Cycle of Violence

Domestic violence typically follows a pattern known as the Cycle of Violence. The cycle consists of three phases: tension building, acute explosion, and honeymoon. Without intervention, the couple will continue to cycle and the abuse will become more severe.



Stage 1: Tension Building

Domestic violence victims describe their tension and anxiety in this phase as similar to walking on eggshells. Victims are uncertain what to expect, but they try to placate the abuser any way possible. They often believe they can diffuse or calm their partner by using techniques that were successful in the past. Everyone living in the home experiences this tension.

When coping techniques fail, the tension becomes unbearable and the couple moves to stage two.


Stage 2: Acute Explosion

The building tension culminates in an abusive incident. The assault may be verbal and humiliating, physical, or sexual. If a victim calls the police, it is typically during this phase.


Stage 3:

Abusers act differently after an abusive incident. They may express remorse, pretend the abuse never happened, act affectionately, apologize, or ask for forgiveness. The abuser tries to make up for his actions, giving the victim hope for change. Often, victims wrongly believe the violence was their fault as well.

Denial of abuse and minimizing the abuser’s behavior is common in both members of the relationship. Without education on domestic abuse and support, the victim may find it difficult to leave the relationship.