Dynamics of Abuse
All intimate and dating relationships begin with a honeymoon phase that lasts anywhere from a couple weeks to several years. During this period of time, the couple generally forms a bond: they spend time together, get to know each other, share intimate experiences, and more.
Domestic violence usually (but not always) begins after the intimate partners have developed an emotional attachment to each other. The perpetrator may begin harming the victim with relatively small acts of abuse, such as name-calling during an argument, or verbal humiliation in front of friends and family; then escalates to checking their partner's phone, accusations of infidelity, or other expressions of extreme jealousy and aggression. These violent episodes are usually preceded by a 'tension' phase, defined by fear and uncertainty, and followed by a 'hearts and flowers' phase defined by gifts, apologies, excuses for behavior, and loving acts.
This pattern of behavior (illustrated below) is known as the cycle of violence. Abuse victims find themselves trapped in this cycle unknowingly, enduring the 'tension' and 'explosion' phases of their relationship because of the 'hearts and flowers' stage. This period of good experiences gives victims false hope that the relationship will get better and return to how it was in the beginning. Unfortunately, domestic violence always escalates in frequency and severity over time, causing the 'hearts and flowers' phase to grow shorter and shorter until it disappears completely.
The Cycle of Violence
Power and Control Wheel
Domestic violence perpetrators rarely use only one form of abuse. As this wheel illustrates, several methods that abusers may use to hurt their victims work together to create a dangerous and damaging whole. When one form of abuse is not effective, the abuser will switch tactics until (s)he has re-established power and control over the victim.
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