Most domestic violence does not happen every minute of every day.  Instead it takes the form of a cycle that increases in speed each time it goes around.  The cycle generally occurs in four different phases:

The Build-Up Phase

  • Some stressful factor (ie. dinner not being made, bad day on the job, a cold, a late bill etc.) can cause the abuser to feel powerless.  (Note that the stress is not the root cause of violence; rather, the need to feel in control and powerful lies at the bottom of the cycle.)
  • The abuser begins to act out: name-calling, accusations, etc.
  • As the build-up increases, the victim tries to calm the abuser and anticipate his/her needs.
  • the victim feels like (s)he is walking on eggshells.

The Act Out Phase

  • Tension eventually leads to more severe, purposeful violence: a serious verbal, physical, or sexual attack
  • Can happen once or repeatedly

The Justification/Rationalization Phase

  • Also known as the honeymoon period
  • The abuser defends himself/herself by blaming others or blaming stress
  • The abuser deflects attention away from violence through romance (ie. flowers, special gifts or attention, etc.)

The Pretend that Things are Normal Phase

  • After the abuser has rationalized the abuse, both partners try to pretend that everything is ok, until the build-up begins again

Generally, each time that the cycle repeats, the Act Out Phase becomes longer, more dangerous, and more consequential, while the Justification and Normal stage become quicker.6