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One well known and important aspect of physical and emotional abuse is 'the cycle of abuse'. This vicious cycle of abuse is present in virtually all domestic violence relationships.

  • The first stage in the cycle is usually referred to as the Tension Building Stage
  • The second stage is often referred to as the Abuse stage
  • The third stage is known as the Remorse Stage or Honeymoon period.
This is the cycle, which repeats itself, with the abuse getting progressively worse over time and often the honeymoon period grows shorter and shorter.

Living in this cycle is like living life on a hurricane prone beach during an endless hurricane season.

Some signs to look for in each stage:

Tension Building Stage:

minor conflicts
coercion
threats of violence
the need to walk on eggshells

There are storm warnings everywhere, the victim tries to batten down the hatches by appeasing the abuser, and avoid any of the triggers he/she's learned to recognize. The abused spends a great deal of time walking on eggshells - trying to avoid the next outburst by the abuser.

Abuse stage:

verbal abuse, threats, intimidation
hitting, slapping, pushing
sexual assault
isolation

The storm hits landfall, the destruction physically and emotionally can be devasting. Each time this stage occurs the natural defenses and self-esteem of the victim are weakened.

Remorse stage:

apologies
promises
gifts
guilt
shame
denial of abuse
blaming the victim

This is the calm of the storm, later on in the relationship it's often just the eye of the storm as the cycle shortens and the first and third phases all but disappear.


Few who've never been involved in a domestic violence relationship can understands why the victim stays. The cycle of abuse is one of the key reasons. The abuser works to destroy the self-esteem of the victim and the victim believes the abuser can change. They often believe the promises made by the abuser during the honeymoon period. Often times the victim fears for his/her life should they leave, and at times rightfully so. As hard as it may be to understand, blaming the abused for staying is just another way of victimizing him or her.

The chances of the cycle of abuse ever ending between these two parters is extremely rare. There are many resouces avaible for anyone seeking to get out of this cycle of violence.

Having spent 9 years in this cycle of (emotional) abuse, and 2 years in a domestic violence help program - I speak from experience. If you recognize you're in this cycle, you can get help, and GET OUT, start making plans today. Start a journal documenting in detail this cycle, and READ it before concidering going back once you've left. Perhaps you would like to read my writeup How to escape domestic violence.

Recommended reading:

The Domestic Violence Sourcebook: Everything you need to know by Dawn Bradley Berry

Family Abuse and the Bible: The scriptural perspective by Cassiday-Shaw. This book tackles, among other things, the common use of the bible by the abuser to justify their actions.

Taking the Step: Escaping Domestic Violence by By Jennifer Wieczorek Robb

Breaking Free from Domestic Violence by Jerry Brinegar

The Abuse of Men: Trauma begets trauma by Barbara Jo Brothers. This book tackles the often neglected topic of male as victims of abuse.

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