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Cycle of Abuse

A cycle of abuse occurs in most domestic violence situations. A Cycle of abuse is abuse that occurs in a repeating pattern. Abuse is identifiable as being cyclical in two ways: it is both generational and episodic. Generational cycles of abuse are passed down, by example and exposure, from parents to children. Episodic abuse occurs in a repeating pattern within the context of at least two individuals within a family system. It may involve spousal abuse, child abuse, or even elder abuse.

Stages of Abuse

Domestic violence has three main stages. These stages will vary in time and intensity, but they are generally present in all instances of domestic violence.

Stage One: Tension Building

During stage one of domestic violence, small physical assaults may occur. Usually, the victim is able to calm down the abuser through techniques he or she has learned from dealing with the abuser in the past. Many abuse victims will inwardly deny that their partners are abusing them. They may smooth over the small isolated assaults and make excuses for the abusers in their minds. However, many abuse victims do recognize that these small incidents will generally escalate and lead to a bigger, more dangerous incident. Victims seem to take it upon themselves to keep things running smoothly so as not to aggravate the abuser. The psychological stress that a victim endures during this stage is brutal.

Stage Two: Explosion

During stage two of domestic violence, nothing the victim can do or say can appease or stop the abuser’s violence. All of the tensions from stage one are released. The abuser has no self-control and can severely injure his or her partner. The abuser is in a blind rage and is oblivious to the damage he or she is inflicting on his or her partner. This phase of the cycle is generally shorter than the other two stages. However, the abuse that a victim endures during this stage is tormenting.

Stage Three: Calm/Relief

Stage three of domestic violence is welcomed by both the abuser and the victim. Tension and brutality has been released and loving kindness is put in its place. The abuser will be very remorseful, charming and warm. Promises are made to the victim and the abuser may shed tears. Both the abuser and the victim want to believe that it will never happen again. Stage three is when most victims of domestic violence get the courage to leave.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, help is available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. They will direct you to places in your area where you can seek help.

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