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