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The Cycle of Abuse


In many abusive relationships, violence is not a one-time incident. The abuse usually happens again and again. While every relationship is different, many abusive relationships follow a repeating pattern called the Cycle of Abuse.


The Cycle of Abuse has four phases:
1. tension building;
2. explosion;
3. reconciliation and;
4. calm;


Each phase might be as short as a few seconds, or as long as several years. Over time, the honeymoon phase may get smaller and shorter as the explosions become more violent and dangerous.

Relationships often start in the honeymoon phase. This can make it especially confusing and scary when the explosion phase happens for the first time.


Phase 1: Tension Building Phase

Things start to get tense in the relationship. You may feel like:

- There is a breakdown of communication.

- The abuser starts to get angry.

- You have to tip-toe around the abuser so you don’t make them mad.

- You feel like you are "walking on egg shells."

- You feel the need to keep the abuser calm.

- Tension becomes too much.

- You can’t do anything right and that you’re getting blamed for things.

- The abuser is always trying to start arguments or fights with you.


Phase 2: Incident or Explosion Phase

There is an outburst of abuse that can include physical, sexual, verbal and/or emotional abuse. The abuser may:

- Physically abuse you by pushing, pinching, holding you down, hitting, kicking      you, etc., or

- Scream and yell at you in a way that scares or humiliates you, or

- Rape or force you to go further sexually than you want to, or

- Threaten to hurt you, or


Phase 3:  Reconciliation or Make-up Phase, also called The Honey Moon phase:

During this stage, the abuser will try and make you forgive and forget whatever just happened in the Explosion Phase. They might do this by:

- Saying “I love you.”

- Apologizing and promising that it will never happen again.

- Buying you gifts or flowers.

- Saying that you did something to cause the abuse or blames the explosion on    other people, or things, like being drunk or stressed out.

- The abuser may deny that the abuse took place or say it was not as bad as you    claim it is.


Phase 4: The Calm Phase:

- The incident is "forgotten".

- Promises made during the 'making-up phase ' may be met.

- You may hope that the abuse is over.

- Remember, this is a cycle. After this phase, Phase 1 starts all over. 

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