If you’re in an abusive relationship, or know someone who is, it’s important to know about the cycle of violence. (To read “When Love Brings Pain –Part 1,” please click here to get an overview of abuse, and how to keep yourself, or someone you love, safe from domestic violence.)

All too often, people who are abused decide to stay with the abuser because there are intermittent good times in their relationships. What they don’t see is the pattern, or cycle, of domestic violence, which will be repeated over and over again, as long as they stay together. As the cycle is repeated, the danger increases!

The first part of the cycle is called the Tension Building Phase. This is a time when the abuser experiences escalating tension. Minor irritations build over time. During this phase, small incidents of acting out happen. The abuser becomes more and more jealous, controlling, and angry. The person being abused tries to placate the abuser. The tension continues building to the point of being almost unbearable for both.

The second phase is the Explosion. The tension that was being built in Phase One has now reached an intolerable level, and the abuser loses control of his/her temper. There’s a lashing out, which can be emotional, verbal, physical or sexual. Whatever form it takes, it’s frightening and painful for the person who is the brunt of it. This explosive phase is usually over quicker than the other two phases, but can result in tremendous suffering for the one being abused. I have seen people with bruises, burns, cuts, and broken bones, among other injuries — all at the hands of those who are supposed to love them. The one suffering the violence seldom fights back. There’s too much fear of the violence escalating even more. Many times, there’s real fear of death resulting from the outburst of violence.

The last phase is the Honeymoon Phase. This follows the explosion of anger and acting out. At this point, the abuser is aware that he/she has gone too far, and tries to make up for it by being very loving and caring. The abuser begs for forgiveness and promises that it will never happen again. The person who has been harmed wants to believe the promises, and decides to stay in most cases. During this phase, it is very difficult to break the bond between the couple. It is a time of relative calm and peacefulness.

Then the cycle begins again! It is critical to see it as a cycle, not as separate, unrelated experiences. The cycle will be repeated as long as the couple is together. The violence will escalate as long as the cycle continues! What begins as pushing and shoving may even end in death, if continued long enough. Physical violence can kill, whether at the hands of a stranger or an intimate partner!

There is help available. Many areas have their own domestic violence programs, but no matter where you live, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7/365. That number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). *CAUTION*: If you are being abused, do not click on this site from your home computer. You do not want your abuser to be able to see it on the “history of use.” You can go to the public library or a trusted friend or family member and use a different computer. If you call the 800 number, be sure that you do this when you know you will not be overheard or disturbed during the call by your abuser.Be careful using your cell phone, since a record of the numbers dialed can be checked. Do not take unnecessary chances of putting yourself in additional danger! The highest danger time is when an abuser thinks the “loved” one may leave!”

* (Part 3 will be information and questions to help you decide if you are in an abusive relationship.)

* (Click here to read “When Love Brings Pain — Part 1”)

Until next time,

Linda

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