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Violence against women > Cycle of Violence

Cycle of Violence

It is important to note that violence or abuse isn't constant or random. It occurs in a cyclical manner and can be broken down into three phases which vary in time and intensity. Phases  tend to occur with increasing frequency and increasing severity, if the cycle is not broken.

These have been listed below, in terms of each phase, the typical behaviour/response from the abuser and the resultant effect on the behaviour of the survivor.



1.     Minor battering incidents occur, includes much verbal and psychological abuse.

2.     He doesn't control his behaviour and the abuse increases.

3.     He may be aware of his inappropriate behaviour, but does not take responsibility for it.

4.     He is afraid that she will be disgusted and leave; this increases his jealousy and  possessiveness, and intensifies his hope that brutality will keep her captive.

5.     He becomes frantic for more control, he misinterprets her behaviour, taking withdrawals as rejection.

6.     Outside events can  affect this  stage.

7.     He feels uncontrollable.


1.     She becomes nurturing and compliant, staying out of his way.

2.     She denies what is happening, i.e.,the escalating abuse and the serious incidents. This denial provides a sense of safety. The  woman also denies her own feelings of fear and anger because they are not safe feelings to have.

3.     She accepts the abuse as being directed against her; she doesn't believe she should be abused but does believe that what she does can prevent his anger from escalating. She attempts to alter his behaviour as a way of providing safety.



1.     Almost always occurs privately.

2.     His feeling of rage is overwhelming.

3.     Batterer justifies his behaviour.

4.     Almost any event, either internal or external, can trigger violence when he needs the release. Violence may occur when he uses drugs or alcohol for  easier release.

5.     May deny the incident occurred.

6.     Blames  her saying that she caused the incident.

7.     After the battering both minimize the severity and rationalize the event.

8.     If the police are called in, he may appear cool and calm when they arrive.


1.     She is anxious, depressed, and sleepless, over/under eating, fatigued, and/ or has tension headaches.

2.     She has only one option: to hide.

3.     Sense of futility in trying to "resist" further battering.

4.     Woman does not seek help unless severely injured, usually not until a day after the incident.

5.     When battering stretches over a long period, she may try to recall an incident to control at least the assault when it occurs. She senses the inescapability of a battering.

6.     She may call the police. When the police arrive, it may appear that she is attacking them or protecting her husband. This is a survival skill.

7.     She has a sense of shame, and a feeling that 'I've allowed this to happen to me.'

8.     There is disbelief.



1.     He becomes loving, contrite, begs forgiveness, and promises it will not happen again.

2.     He may truly believe he will never batter again, and truly be sorry.

3.     He believes he has taught her a lesson. She will never act up again.

4.     He will give up drinking (if he drinks) temporarily, in an attempt to convince her that he will change.

5.     He pleads with the woman, attempts to blame the woman, and engages the family to do the same.

6.     He knows he needs her, for if she is not there he will have to take responsibility for his actions.


1.     Victimization is complete.

2.     Woman translates his depression, and extreme need for her, as deep love.

3.     She feels responsible for what happened.

4.     She believes in the permanency of the relationship, and believes it is her responsibility to keep it together. She is an easy prey of guilt.

5.     She believes that if she stays he will get help.

6.     She wants to believe that she will no longer have to suffer abuse.

7.     She returns to the original dream of her relationship and realizes how wonderful her man is.

8.     Her self-esteem has been shattered. She needs to believe she is needed and wanted.

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