Cycle Of Violence

Dorchen A. Leidholdt

Every survivor of domestic violence has a unique story of abuse. However, while the details are different, abuse often follows a similar pattern.

The three-phase cycle of violence is often used to illustrate the dynamics of an abusive relationship. The three phases are:

1. Tension Building

The cycle may begin with the abuser becoming angry, jealous, and suspicious of the victim. The abuser may use tactics such as name-calling, verbal threats, and intimidation. The victim may try to appease the abuser to avoid triggering this behavior. The victim often tries to wait out periods of increased tension, and may begin to avoid family, friends, and others trying to help – allowing the abuser to isolate the victim. As the tension builds, the verbal arguments become increasingly hostile and threatening. The tension finally builds beyond control and severe abuse becomes inevitable.

2. Abuse/Violence

This phase begins with a severely abusive or violent act against the victim. The abuser can go into an angry rage causing major destruction to the home and injuries to the victim – alcohol or drugs could be involved and used as an excuse for the behavior.

3. Apology/Honeymoon

In this phase, the abuser will beg for forgiveness. The abuser may also make promises to end the violence, stop drinking, etc. Gifts and displays of affection often give the victim false hope that the violence will end. The victim wants to believe the abuser even though suspicious that promises will not be kept. This phase is usually seen early in the abusive relationship. Eventually, many abusers skip this phase altogether, finding that they do not need to apologize in order to make the


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