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Understanding the Cycle of Violence and How to Break It
By Donna Rogers, via email
Domestic violence is a societal problem that affects millions of people around the world. Fortunately, more attention is being placed on the issue, and October has been named as a National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year celebrates 30 years since the campaign started and it Is time to take another look at this epidemic that plagues America.
Most of us know that almost anyone can fall prey to intimate partner abuse. Domestic violence does not discriminate between race, culture, sex, socioeconomic status, religion, education level or any other form. But who are the abusers, what is the cycle of abuse and more importantly, how can you break it?
Domestic Violence is About Control
A perpetrator of domestic violence may abuse their partner by way of physical abuse, sexual abuse or by verbal or mental abuse. The abuse may start out not happening very frequently, but usually, the number of violent incidents continue to increase over time. This dispels a common myth that many victims of domestic violence say, which is that “it was only one time.”
Perpetrators are known for being great manipulators and will try to control anything and everything that they can. This includes, but is not limited to: finances, using children to control the victim, isolation from family and friends, blaming the victim, denying that specific incidents even happened, making the victim feel as if they are going crazy, name-calling, yelling, screaming, extreme jealousy, throwing things, breaking things, pushing or punching and making threats.
This is not a complete list of the abuse that many victims of domestic violence experience by any means. However, these are found to be the most common forms of control.
Many believe that relationship abuse occurs because the abuser lacks self-control and is prone to fits of explosive violence. In fact, abusers deliberately choose their behavior, and domestic violence follows an established cycle, which occurs in three distinct stages. This sequence of violence makes it easy for abusers to manipulate their partners and difficult for partners to leave the abusive relationship.
The Three Phases of the Cycle of Violence
Counselors who work with the victims of domestic abuse have identified three primary stages in the domestic violence cycle. The three primary stages of the cycle are:
a “normal” or “honeymoon” phase during which abuse does not occur
a period of tension building, during which the abuser dwells on the partner’s faults and plans future episodes of abuse
an episode of violence, whether physical or verbal
During the “normal” or “honeymoon” phase, abuse does not occur, and the abused partner may begin to believe that it won’t happen again. The abuser may declare remorse for his behavior and promise that it won’t happen again. The abuser will do everything in his power to convince the abused partner to remain in the relationship. He may become charming, thoughtful and supportive; he may pretend the abuse never happened.
During the tension building phase, the abuser obsesses over his partner’s faults and plans future abuse, which occurs in the abuse phase of the domestic violence cycle.
Recognizing the Cycle of Relationship Abuse in Real Life
How does the cycle of domestic violence play out in daily life? An abuser uses episodes of physical violence, or even verbal abuse to intimidate and control the victim. Afterward, he may express remorse, apologize, promise never to do it again, pin the blame for the abuse on the victim, or deny even that anything occurred. The abuser may make excuses for his or her behavior, claiming to have lost their temper or blaming the behavior on mental illness, alcohol or drugs.
During the normal or honeymoon phase, abuse may not occur. The abuser may pretend that the abuse never happened. The abuser may temporarily keep the promises made following the last episode of abuse. The abuser may become newly charming, may shower the abused partner with gifts, and will do whatever possible to keep the abused partner in the relationship. The victim may hope that the abuse has ended.
During the tension building phase, the abuser will begin to find fault with his partner for a myriad of reasons and will start to fantasize about how he or she will punish the partner in a future episode of abuse. The abuser will plan the next episode of abuse and may set up a contrived situation so that he or she can justify abusing the other partner.
Episodes of Domestic Abuse do not Occur at Random
The cycle of domestic violence proves that episodes of relationship abuse do not occur at random. Relationship abuse occurs only after planning on the part of the abusive partner. The cycle of violence found in abusive relationships makes it difficult for victims to leave; they feel that the good times they experience during the periods in which abuse does not occur out-weigh the periods of abuse themselves, especially when episodes of abuse are infrequent.
The domestic violence cycle can occur hundreds or even thousands of times within an abusive relationship, though not all cases of domestic abuse follow the sequence exactly as it’s described here. The cycle forms a large part of the manipulation and control tactics used by abusive partners to keep their victims within the relationship.
Why do Domestic Violence Victims Stay?
Many people wonder why victims of abuse stay in an abusive relationship. The main thing to remember is that these relationships did not typically start out as abusive. Nor did the abuse happen overnight. It is a gradual change in the person’s behavior that a victim may not realize right away. They may have children with this person and because of the control that is used, feel powerless to change the situation. They also remember the good times they have had with their partner. As much as they do not by any means enjoy the abuse, they love who their partner is when the abuse is not happening; as abuse often does not happen daily.
Need Help? Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline
It is crucial for victims of domestic violence to know that help is available to them. There are domestic violence shelters all over the united states. These organizations are dedicated to helping victims to overcome their situation. Their primary goal is to make sure that the victim gets to a safe place as well as to help them in any way they can.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE ( 7233) to be connected with local shelters or domestic violence resources in your area. Help is available; please make the first step by making that first call for help. The hotline is open 24 hours a day in order to be able to help victims and their families day or night. Take this positive step in the right direction. No one deserves to be abused.