Home Types of Abuse Guide to Understanding the ‘Cycle of Abuse

Guide to Understanding the ‘Cycle of Abuse

 Guide to Understanding the ‘Cycle of AbuseWhat is the ‘Cycle of Abuse’?

The ‘Cycle of Abuse’ serves to illustrate the methodology, process, and systematic manifestation of abusive relationships; this ideology not only outlines the events leading up to domestic violence cases, but also the itemization of the gradual unfolding of events resulting in domestic violence. 
The psychological ideology defining the Cycle of Abuse was created by clinical psychologist Dr. Lenore Walker, considered to be amongst the pioneers of psychology with regard studies of domestic violence and abused women – however, a primary tenet of the ‘Cycle of Abuse’ study indicates the repetitive nature of the abuse, which is facilitated by the events taking place resulting from this cycle.

The 4 Stages of the Cycle of Abuse Study

Within the Cycle of Abuse study, Dr. Walker cites the 4 stages of abuse and domestic violence; these stages range from the inception of domestic violence to the tragic and devastating aftereffects:

‘Tension Building’

The building – or rising – of tension is considered to be the first phase of the Cycle of Abuse, which manifests itself through passive aggression, the facilitation of distance on the part of the abuser towards the abused partner, and the establishment of a nervous, tense, and agitated state within the romantic relationship:

The ‘Tension’ phase results in a heightened sense of fear and anxiety on the part of the abused partner

‘The Incident’

The enactment of the abusive incident in question is considered to be the second phase of the Cycle of Abuse, which is classified as the abusive action or expression manifesting itself; abuse taking place within the ‘incident’ phase can include spousal abuse that is physical, emotional, or sexual in nature:

The ‘Incident’ phase results in the establishment of intimidation in order to facilitate the abuse taking place

The enactment of reconciliation undertaken by both individuals participatory within the abusive relationship is considered to be the third phase of the Cycle of Abuse, which involves the abuser expressing remorse for their respective actions; however, Dr. Walker warns that habitual abusers seldom – if ever – enact sincere apologies – in these cases, the expression of remorse or apology will typically include excuses, validation, or minimization with regard to the abuse sustained:

In certain cases, the ‘Reconciliation’ phase may involve the abuser denying the abuse that had taken place; Dr. Walker cites that this denial may result in the proliferation of self-doubt and guilt within the abused partner


The sense of calm and peace subsequent to the abusive incident is considered to be the fourth phase of the Cycle of Abuse, which involves the period following the apology or expressed sense of remorse on the part of the abuser; during this phase, the abuser will typically present a temporary change in behavior absent of the ability to maintain that change on a permanent basis – furthermore, Dr. Walker explains that during the ‘Calm’ phase, the respective romantic partners may feel a sense of extreme closeness:

Typically, a sentiment of forgiveness or disregard for the prior abuse is not only implicit, but expected within the ‘Calm’ phase; however, the danger reported within the ‘Cycle of Abuse’ study is primarily evident with regard to the repetitive nature innate within this cycle

Reporting Abusive Relationship Signs

In the event that any of the prospective signs and applicable circumstances latent within the Cycle of Abuse are applicable to you your current situation – or cases that have occurred in the past – you are encouraged to contact their local authorities or law enforcement department in order to report the details of the offense; you are encouraged to report any type of abuse or abusive relationship signs to which you become privy – ultimately, reporting domestic violence could be a life-saving act. 
Despite the alarming rate of domestic violence, almost half of domestic violence abuses are not reported; remember – the opportunity to report Domestic Violence offenses in an anonymous fashion is also available to you upon contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline through their 24-hour telephone number: (800) 799-7233.