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Violence against women

Sexual assault
Learn about rape trauma syndrome, date rape, and the impact of rape on relationships

Domestic violence
Learn why it happens and how to get help.

Child sexual abuse/incest
Learn how to spot child sexual abuse and how to report it.

Domestic violence

The cycle of abuse

For many victims, it's difficult to recognize when a pattern of abuse has developed in their relationship. Instead, they often see abusive behaviors as isolated, unrelated incidents. Yet, abuse often happens in cycles, with abusive episodes interspersed with periods of calm, loving support, and affirmation—nurturing and caring that initially drew the two partners together. However, the abusive pattern that develops can often become predictable and a source of tension, even during periods of calm.

The cycle of abuse may be described as:

  1. Tension may arise within a relationship. It may be the result of a minor disagreement.
  2. Tension continues to build over a period of hours, or days or perhaps months.
  3. Something will trigger an abusive incident. This assault may be physical, psychological, or sexual. (See Types of Abuse.)
  4. A period of calm follows. This is often called the "honeymoon phase." The abuser may buy his/her partner gifts or lavish attention on him/her, often feeling sorry for what has happened.
  5. Over time, the above cycle changes. More small incidents will occur, tension will increase, and the cycle will begin again. Both partners want to believe incidents of abuse will not repeat themselves, but they usually do.

Although abuse most often happens as part of a cycle, some victims never experience a cycle or pattern. Some abusive incidents happen without provocation, warning, or buildup, and there may be no periods of calm. The abuser may show no remorse. In other cases, tension is always present.

However, because abuse tends to follow a pattern, there are usually signs that can alert you to take action and keep yourself as safe as possible.

How can I recognize the onset of an abusive incident?

What actions in your partner have led to abuse in the past? Think about this and take note of past behavior. Past behavior is usually a good indicator of future actions. Take note of the types of things your partner says and the manner in which he/she says them or acts toward you. Pay attention to specific activities such as drinking or particular actions such as slamming doors or throwing things.

Pay close attention to your own gut instincts and internal signals such as increased fear, worry, and edginess. Be aware of any sudden changes in your words or actions resulting from fear of what your partner may do.

Domestic violence

Editor's picks

Following are just some of the wonderful books on this topic available from Amazon.com. Click on the cover art to learn more.

Why Does He Do That?

The Verbally Abusive Relationship

Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence

It's My Life Now

For even more resources, visit Amazon.com

Video clip

Mary Kay Inc. Supports Women's Shelters
Since 2000, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation has awarded millions of dollars to women's shelters across the United States. From 2005 through 2007, the Foundation has awarded $20,000 grants, totaling $3 million, to 150 shelters in all 50 states for each of these years.

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