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Dynamics of Abuse

All of the characteristics do not apply to all victims. However, the following are general characteristics that apply to many victims.

Phase 1: The Tension Building Stage

The batterer becomes agitated. The victim tries to calm the perpetrator by becoming nurturing and compliant (i.e., anticipating his every whim or staying out of his way). The victim tolerates the abusiveness which they believe is directed at them for legitimate reasons. Victims often believe that they can prevent the anger from escalating.

Victims accept responsibility for the abusive behavior by:

  • not permitting themselves to get angry with the batterer;
  • denying their own anger;
  • minimizing the isolated incidents of violence;
  • denying the terror that they feel.

Phase 2: The Acute Battering Stage

The tension explodes, often resulting in physical injury to the victim. The batterer justifies the abusive behavior. If the victim resists the assault, the perpetrator may become more violent. Victims frequently say that the physical assault is not as difficult for them to experience as are the feelings of being trapped and hopeless. Both parties tend to minimize the injuries. After the incident, the victim may feel listless, depressed, helpless, and guilty. Sometimes victims will isolate themselves for a period of time before seeking help.

Phase 3: Kindness and Contrite Loving Stage (Honeymoon Period)

Both parties are relieved, as the tension building stage has ended and both parties have, hopefully, survived. The perpetrator, concerned that the victim will end the relationship, tries to appease the victim by behaving in a charming and loving manner. The abuser may express sorrow and request forgiveness. The abuser promises never to do it again and pleads with the victim to give them another chance, often reminding the victim how much they need them. In this phase batterers often agree to counseling. The batterer’s promises provide the victim hope. The victim may be reminded of why they were originally attracted to the batterer. Some perpetrators threaten to commit suicide if the victim doesn’t continue the relationship. This third phase may last for a while, but soon minor incidents begin to occur, tension builds and the cycle starts anew.

Based upon the work of Dr. Lenore Walker

It should be mentioned that many victims who are in long-term abusive relationships report that they no longer experience a “Honeymoon Period.”