The Cycle of Abuse in a Relationship Affected by Domestic Violence

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The Cycle of Abuse in a Relationship Affected by Domestic Violence

Relationships that are affected by domestic or intimate partner abuse all have a common factor – the cycle of abuse. The cycle of abuse is a pattern of behavior that an abuser and his or her victim go through between incidents of abuse. Although domestic violence deals with emotional, financial and physical abuse, the cycle of abuse primarily deals with physical abuse. There are generally three distinct phases of the cycle, and include the tension-building phase, the violent episode, and then apologetic, loving behavior, commonly referred to as the honeymoon phase.

The tension-building phase in the cycle of violence is where emotional abuse, and sometimes even physical abuse, usually begins. This is the phase where tension builds between the abuser and his or her partner or family members who in turn experience high levels of anxiety, fear and anticipation of what will happen next. Although this phase is inevitable, it may begin due to stresses about finances, the couple’s children, trust issues or any other problem that the family might be facing. Many victims of abuse try to calm their partners or other family members down during this phase by claiming responsibility for behavior that isn’t their fault or by shifting attention away from the problem. Once the tension rises to its highest level, the violent episode takes place.

The battering incident, also referred to as the acute battering incident, takes place when the tension-building phase escalates and the abuser then attacks his or her partner or other family member. The episode is unpredictable and may be set off by anything. Once started, only the person inflicting the abuse can stop it. Although one might think that this phase would be incited by an act of the victim, such is rarely the case, as he or she usually has little to do with it. This phase is usually brought on by an external problem or internally within the abuser. There are times, however, when a victim might provoke his or her intimate partner or other family member into this phase, wanting to get it over with, knowing that the honeymoon phase is next. It is during this phase that victims are seriously injured and even killed.

The final phase of the cycle of abuse is commonly referred to as the honeymoon phase. This is where all tension has left the relationship and the bonds between the couple or family are strengthened. During this phase, the abusive partner or family member acts loving, may shower his or her victim with gifts and affection and promises to never hurt him or her again. Both the abuser and the victim want to believe the abuse is truly over and it is because of the grief and devotion that the batterer shows his or her victim during this phase that prevents many victims of domestic and intimate partner violence from leaving their abusive relationships.

A victim who has experienced these cycles of abuse at least twice may be diagnosed with a recognized psychological condition known as battered person’s syndrome. This syndrome can be used as a defense to a crime committed by a battered person or may be used against a defendant in a domestic violence trial if his or her victim recants or refuses to cooperate with the prosecution.

Leaving an abusive relationship may be the only way to end this cycle of violence. California has an abundance of resources that are designed to help victims of domestic abuse leave their abusers and find ways to lead their lives free from fear and violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, found online at or by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE, is a great place to learn more about the signs and symptoms of domestic violence or to seek referrals for classes, counseling or other programs. Speaking with the compassionate lawyers at The Kavinoky Law Firm may also be helpful to learn about a D.V. victim’s legal rights and remedies. Contact an attorney today for a free consultation to discuss any Domestic Violence-related matter.