Violence and Abuse Cycle

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Cycle of Violence and Abuse

Understanding the cycle of violence and abuse can help you begin to break free of abusive and violent relationships. Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose only: to gain power and maintain total control over you. The cycle of violence is comprised of three phases: the explosion, honeymoon phase, the tension-building phase.

Explosion or Incident

  • Physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse occurs
  • Batterer may yell, scream, humiliate, threaten, intimidate, or physically harm his or her partner


  • Batterer acts like nothing happened or may be excessively apologetic for the abuse, promising it will never happen again
  • Abuser may blame the victim for the abuse or say it wasn’t as bad as the victim says
  • Abuser may make romantic gestures such as declaring his love, bringing flowers, jewelry, or gifts

Tension building

  • Batterer begins to show signs of anger and irritation
  • Victim may feel like he or she is walking on eggshells
  • There’s a communication breakdown
  • Victim may feel he or she has to keep the abuser calm

This cycle goes on and on: explosion, honeymoon, tension building and back to an explosion. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Abusers may also threaten you, hurt you, or threaten to hurt those around you.

They then use excuses or “normal” behavior to make it seem like it never happened. In the “honeymoon” phase, they try to restore the relationship in a positive way (e.g., flowers, excessive apologies, declarations of love). As soon as they have regained your trust and have you back in their control after a period of good behavior, the cycle of violence begins again.

No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, reach out. We can help.

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