What is Abuse?

Domestic violence (also called wife abuse, family violence, and partner abuse) is rarely a one-time event. It usually takes place as part of a cycle that includes the following phases.


Tension-building stage:
Insults and other verbal attacks; minor abusive situations; victim tries to be compliant, "walks on eggshells," and feels helpless; atmosphere becomes increasingly more oppressive.

Violent episode:
Built-up tensions erupt into incidents ranging from severe verbal/emotional abuse to physical/sexual assault. These episodes can last from a few minutes to a few days depending on the relationship. It is during this time that a woman is most likely to be seriously injured or killed by her partner.

Honeymoon/Calm stage:
Following a violent episode the abuser is usually contrite and attentive. The victim once again recognizes the person she first fell in love with and may be inclined to believe his promises to change. This stage may also be merely a change in an abuser's tactics to maintain control of the victim. As the relationship further deteriorates and risk increases. The "calm stage" becomes shorter and sometimes disappears altogether. Unless there is some form of intervention, the cycle usually repeats itself with the violent episodes escalating in frequency and intensity. As the cycle speeds up, explosions become more frequent in time and indicate the victim is at higher risk.