Regardless of the type of domestic abuse being committed, there is a common cycle of abuse that tends to occur between the abuser and the abused:
Abusive Behavior – Typically the result of the abuser’s need to feel “in control”, the abuser lashes out at his victim through violent or similarly unacceptable behavior. Most people identify this to be the beginning of an abusive relationship, however, it is likely that the abuser has been building up to this point for some time.
Guilt and Regret – After the abusive behavior, the abuser often shows signs of guilt and remorse over the incident. Interestingly, though, it is not always the act itself that the abuser feels guilty about but rather how this act might affect his image and his freedom if he were to get caught.
Transference of Guilt – In order to rationalize his behavior, the abuser will usually find a way to justify his actions and transfer the guilt onto the victim. This is why so many abused women truly believe that it is “their fault” and they “asked for it” or somehow deserve the abuse.
Reconciliation – Having satisfied his need for control, the abuser returns to a seemingly “normal” state and all is well. He may even be overly charming as he takes steps to convince his victim that things will be better and the abusive incident won’t happen again.
Discontent – The reconciliation period doesn’t last long before the abuser begins to feel discontent again and begins to look for reasons that the abuse must continue. He’ll focus on his victim’s faults and shortcomings, exaggerating any failures or missteps no matter how insignificant. During this time he may even begin to fantasize about abusing again and is working to convince himself that it’s his job to make his victim “pay”.
Setting the Stage – Determined that the victim needs to be punished, the abuser will literally set the stage for the event. This is often accomplished by picking a fight with his victim or berating and chastising his victim until she snaps back, thereby justifying his need to abuse again.
Obviously, this cycle does not justify or condone abusive behavior but it does provide some insight into an abuser’s thought process, something that is crucial for victims of abuse to understand.
Often battered women stay in an abusive relationship because they believe that their abuser loves them and needs them and/or that they have an obligation to stay because of the vows they took. As the abuse progresses, these same women begin to believe that they deserve the abuse or that there is no way out. At this point, the abuser has complete control over his victim and is no longer concerned with the possibility that she might leave.
This is a dangerous situation to be in and it’s important for victims of abuse to realize that they have other options, despite what their abusers might say to the contrary.
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, you should read How to Stop Domestic Violence and seek assistance from law enforcement or social services. In addition, you may also find this book on domestic abuse to be helpful.