The cycle of violence

The information provided below is general information only. It does not replace advice and support from a domestic violence specialist.

Although the Cycle of Violence is a reference tool that demonstrates what some experiences of violence might look like. 

Not all domestic or family violence fits within this framework, so please remember that the Cycle of Violence is for reference only.

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First Phase: Tension-building Phase

The Build Up: Tension between the people in the relationship starts to increase and verbal abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and/or financial abuse occurs.

The Stand-over:  This phase can be very scary for people experiencing abuse. You may feel as though the situation will explode if you do anything wrong. Their behaviour intensifies and reaches a point where a release of tension is inevitable.

Second Phase: Acute Explosion

The peak of the violence is reached in this phase. They experience a release of tension and this behaviour may become habitual.

Third Phase: Honeymoon Stage

Feelings of Remorse: At this point, they may start to feel ashamed. They may become withdrawn and try to justify their actions to themselves and others. For example, they may say: “You know it makes me angry when you say that.”

Pursuit: During the pursuit phase, they may promise to never be violent again. They may try to explain the violence by blaming things like alcohol or stress at work. They may be more attentive to you, including buying gifts and helping you around the house. It could seem as though the perpetrator has changed. At this point, you may feel confused and hurt but also relieved that the violence is over.

The Denial: Both people in the relationship may be in denial and the intimacy may increase during this phase. Both people may feel happy and want the relationship to continue, so you tend not to acknowledge the possibility that the violence could happen again.

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