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:
- Tension may arise within a relationship. It may be the result of a
- Tension continues to build over a period of hours, or days or perhaps
- Something will trigger an abusive incident. This assault may be
physical, psychological, or sexual. (See Types of Abuse.)
- 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.
- 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.