In the beginning of most relationships, violence is rarely shown. The batterer will come on strong, often proclaiming that the new partner is “the only one that I could ever talk to” or that the batterer has “never been loved like this before.” The relationship is often one of infatuation.
As the relationship continues, the demands (mental, emotional, and physical) increase along with the stress. There is an increase in aggressive behavior, usually towards objects rather than the partner. Examples of this are punching doors, throwing objects, etc. Emotional and mental abuse begins during this time. This abuse is characterized by comments about what the partner wears, the partner’s friends and family, and obsessive jealousy becomes increasingly obvious. The batterer may try to justify the jealousy by stating the jealousy shows how much the partner is loved. The violence moves from objects to partner. There may be an increase in verbal abuse as well as physical abuse. The partner may alter behavior to try to stop the violence. Examples include keeping the house cleaner, the children quieter, etc.
The abuser may become obsessively jealous and try to control most of the partner’s behavior and time, i.e. say where the partner can go and with whom, how the partner dresses, etc.
The abuser may try to isolate the partner from family and friends. The abuser may tell the partner that if the partner loved the batterer, she wouldn’t need others or that the partner is married now and the partner’s place is with the abuser.
The tension building phase differs with each case. The length of this phase may be days or weeks and the severity varies.
The Acute Battering Incident
During this phase, the physical violence occurs. The abuser makes a choice about the violence. For example: decides place and time for the episode, makes the conscious choice on which part of the body to hit and if it is done with a fist or open hand, etc.
This is usually the phase where law enforcement becomes involved. When law enforcement arrives, the abuser often appears calm and relaxed after the release of the tension. The partner, on the other hand, may appear confused and hysterical from the episode.
This phase is characterized by a calm, non-violent, or loving period of time. During this phase, the abuser may take some responsibility for his/her behavior, thus giving the partner hope for changes. The abuser may beg for forgiveness, promise not to do it again, promise to get help, give gifts, etc.
The Calm, also known as the “Honeymoon Phase”
The incident of abuse if forgotten, this is the “normal” phase of the relationship. This is the most dangerous phase of the cycle of violence. During this phase, the victim can be drawn back in by the batterer’s “good behavior” and often has a false hope restored that the batterer will change. The victim sees the batterer as the person they fell in love with.
If there is no intervention and the relationship continues, there is a very high possibility the violence will escalate and the severity will increase.
The cycle can happen hundreds of times in an abusive relationship. Each stage lasts a different amount of time in a relationship. The total cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete.
It is important to remember that not all intimate partner violence relationships fit the cycle. Often, as time goes on, the ‘making-up’ and ‘calm’ stages disappear. Once violence has begun, it characteristically increases in frequency and severity.
If you need assistance, reach out to the Women’s Shelter Program at (805)781-6400.
If you are not in San Luis Obispo County, call your local women’s shelter or call 1-800-799-SAFE for the shelter nearest you.
If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. If 911 services are not available in your area, call your local police department.