Cycle of Violence

th-8In most cases, battering does not occur constantly, but rather in a cycle. The cycle consists of three phases: the tension-building phase, the acute battering incident, and the kindness, contrite, loving behavior (sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon” stage.)

Phase I: The tension building phase: During this phase of the cycle, tension builds between the couple. Problems regarding jobs, finances, children, and other areas are stressors that increase the tension. There may be verbal, emotional, or physical abuse during this phase. The victim often attempts to control the abuse through various coping techniques such as avoidance, placating, or “giving in.” These are “band-aid” like attempts to stop the abuse and do not work for long, if at all. Once the tension reaches an unbearable level, the acute battering incident occurs. With drug and alcohol addiction this stage can be analogous to the craving of the drug and tension, stress, and anxiety from not having it, having the resources to get it, time spent thinking of behaviors or manipulations to get it. Or to the hangover, consequences (physical, emotional, financial etc…), or paranoia from use of time, the toll it has taken, and “fearing” what will happen next.

Phase II: The acute battering incident: This is an uncontrollable discharge of built-up tension. (Many refer to this stage as the abusive partner “going off” on the victim) The “trigger” for moving into this phase is rarely the victims fault or behavior; rather it is usually an external stressor (problems at work, a flat tire, etc.) or the internal state of the abusive partner. The type of battering that occurs is usually much more serious and intense than in phase one and the victim may be severely injured. Because the acute battering incident may be triggered by anything, there is a complete lack of predictability. Although victim does not “cause” the violence perpetrated by his or her partner , occasionally he or she may unconsciously provoke the violence (acute battering incident). He or she knows from past experience(s) that the battering incident is coming and wants to get it over with. In other words, instead of continuing to have to experience the feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” the victim, will “pick up the shoe and throw it” to get the tension over with and be able to move out of this stage of constant tension and anxiety. Most victims know that there will be a “calm” or “honeymoon” phase following the abuse (battering incident). There is no escape from the violence for the victim once the battering has begun; only the batterer can end the incident. After the battering has occurred, the couple moves into phase three or the “honeymoon” phase.

Phase III: The honeymoon phase (apologies, excuses, promises of reform) the abusive partner realizes he or she has gone to far. During this stage the abusive partner typically exhibits loving, kind behavior while apologizing and promising that it will never happen again. Both the abusive partner and the victim want to believe that it won’t happen again. As soon the abusive partner believes that victim has learned his or her “lesson” and that he or she is “hooked” back into the relationship by his sincere apology and loving behavior, flowers, weekend away, new dress, etc. the honeymoon stage is over and the relationship moves back into the tension building stage and the cycle begins again………The tension has been dissipated by the abuse and both members of the couple are relieved. During this “honeymoon” phase, the couple becomes very close emotionally; the effect of the abusive partner’s generosity, helpfulness and genuine interest during this phase cannot be minimized or underestimated. Ironically, it is during the honeymoon that victimization becomes complete. The emotional, symbiotic bonding that occurs between the couple strengthens the commitment that each has to the relationship. The victim is finally experiencing the relationship in a positive way and thus it becomes increasingly difficult for him her to leave it. During the honeymoon phase the victim looks at his or her partners words and behaviors and remembers “this is the person I fell in love with” and desperately wants to believe that the “good” loving and caring is back and that the violence was a “mistake” and that it will not happen again. After the victim has been through the cycle of number of times, his or her self-esteem, energy, and support systems begin to fade. In time, the victim begins to understand that he or she is trading physical and psychological safety for “love” and/or brief periods of “peace and happiness.”