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Can we talk about the Cycle of Abuse by Daniele Johnson


Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) was launched nationwide in October 1987. In my 22 years of practicing family law, I have handled hundreds of Domestic Violence Divorces. Unfamiliar with the 4-part cycle of abuse, many of my clients are unaware that they are even in an abusive marriage. For those who feel that there is something “not quite right” about your “normal” marriage  or relationship, here is a closer look at the Cycle of Abuse: 

STAGE ONE: Tension Builds

This is the simmering stage. The abusive partner often lashing out at everything, big or small, that can cause stress, such as work, home environment, or even the children. The slightest frustration results in general grumbling, snide comments, scoffing, or silent treatment. In anticipation of the next stage, you may have a general feeling of walking on eggshells. 

STAGE TWO: Incident of Abuse

This is when the simmering boils over into violence. Violence comes in many shapes and forms. Yes, it could be physical and/or sexual. However, over the years my clients have explained to me that the nonphysical violence is actually more painful. Examples include yelling, cursing, name-calling, threats of physical harm, or emotional manipulation. The abusive partner may accuse you for “making them mad”  or otherwise blaming you for the abuse.

STAGE THREE: Reconciliation

After the incident of abuse, tension gradually begins to fade. The abuser may act overly-kind with apologies for their behavior. The abused may have a false feeling of love, safety, and a hope that the abuse will never happen again. 


To maintain peace and harmony, both parties generally rationalize the abuse. The abuser may blame outside forces, or even accuse you of provoking them. You may feel partly to blame because you did something “wrong” and if you just change your behavior, this will not happen again.


Tensions build again, there is an incident of abuse, you kiss and makeup, you rationalize the abuse until it happens again. The length of time that it takes for the cycle to repeat varies with each relationship. However, as the abuse escalates, each stage becomes shorter to complete. Before you know it, the cycle becomes your new normal.


Domestic Violence crosses all boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, religion, economic background, physical ability, and sexual orientation. If you feel that you are or maybe in this cycle, please know that you deserve better. Your abuser is not going to change. Your abuser will not stop. Most importantly, this is not your fault, you are not alone, and, with an exit plan in place, you can safely leave. 


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