Understanding and Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence

What is the cycle of domestic violence? The cycle of violence is concerned with the repetitive nature of the perpetrator’s actions that impede the victim’s ability to leave an abusive relationship. The cycle of violence theory was developed in 1979 by Dr. Lenore Walker. It describes the phases through which an abusive relationship passes. Cycle of Violence Theory provides insight into this phenomenon by illustrating how an abuser’s behavior can change dramatically, making it difficult for the victim to leave.

 The stereotype of domestic violence is a man beating a woman into a fit of uncontrollable rage. In reality, violent relationships are much more complex. Although the abusers are usually men, there are also women who use violence against their partners. What is the big difference between men and women? Research indicates that women tend to use violence to defend themselves while men tend to use violence to gain or maintain control over their partner. 

I myself am a former victim of sexual, physical and psychological violence. 

Even though, like everyone else, life has challenges to manage every day, today I’m happy to wake up in the morning! 

As an expert coach in the release of domestic and family violence, I mainly specialize with women who have suffered violence. If you are a woman in this situation looking for support to understand your situation, overcome it and take action, I invite you first of all to join my group Support group for victims of domestic violence and family on Facebook.

The 3 phases of the domestic violence cycle

Domestic violence often follows a repetitive cycle within each relationship. Not all violent relationships follow this pattern, but many victims describe their relationships this way:

  •  Tense climate: When relationship tension builds, victims may feel like they are « walking on eggshells » around the abuser. This phase can last a few hours or months, or anything in between. The longer it lasts, the more inevitable the explosion, even if the victim does not know exactly what will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
  •  Violence: The abusive incident usually occurs when the tension eventually breaks down. This can happen in different ways. Usually, this part of the cycle occurs when the abuser physically attacks the victim. The perpetrator can hit or even rape the victim. In relationships where the violence is primarily psychological, the abuser may suddenly deny the victim access to basic necessities, calling her by humiliating names or threatening her with violence.
  •  Honeymoon: During the honeymoon phase, the abuser may apologize, buy gifts, or be very affectionate to « compensate » for the abuse. Many will promise to change, to stop the abuse or never to do it again. These assurances are meant to persuade the victim to stay in the relationship. Not all violent relationships involve a honeymoon phase. For some, the abusive incident is immediately followed by increasing tension before the next incident.

How to break the cycle of domestic violence?

If you are stuck in a painful relationship, the cycle of abuse can be broken. What matters is to take immediate action to ensure your safety and well-being. Once it’s broken, don’t look back. Try to move forward as best you can and know that a good relationship and a better life can await you in the future.

  • Avoid being fooled by kindness after violence. One of the most typical reasons that keep people in abusive relationships is that they hope their abuser will change. This hope may be fueled in part by the abuser’s gentle behaviors. Don’t be fooled by his behavior during the honeymoon phase. He tries to control and manipulate you in order to keep you in the relationship.
  • Don’t let your guilt and submission take over. There are good reasons your abuser is trying to make you believe you deserve violence. However, remember that there should never be a reason for one human being to assault another.
  • Improve your self-confidence. One of the reasons that keeps people in an abusive relationship is that they feel weak and unable to act. Getting rid of this state of mind is a difficult thing that takes time, but as you find ways to strengthen yourself and increase your self-confidence, you will begin to take steps to get help and to build a action plan.
  • Leave at the right time. Consider leaving when your abuser will be away from the house, such as at work or with friends. Give yourself enough time to collect essential parts like paperwork (e.g. passports, birth certificate), necessary things like wallet, house and car keys, a change of clothes, and the address of family and friends, or a home for victims of violence.

Are you currently thinking about leaving an abusive relationship? I understand that this can seem difficult, and asking for help will probably be necessary to avoid missteps. Find out about local resources that are designed to help victims of violence. You can opt for job training, legal advice, financial services and other services for your children.

I invite you to contact me, to have a free interview, to find out how I can help you find the right strategy to get out of this relationship and rebuild a happy life. You deserve much better than this!

Agnès de Reulle

Coach, Expert in liberation from domestic and family violence & in controlling the stress of legal proceedings
Article written for Positive Words.