The cycle of domestic violence consists of various phases: tension, aggression, justification and reconciliation.
At the beginning of the relationship, everything is fine. It’s the honeymoon period. Then, little by little, tension creeps into the relationship under various pretexts. The intimate partner does not do things the way the partner would like them to. For example, why didn’t the spouse put away their clothes as soon as they returned from their trip? Why does the spouse have so much fun in the company of other people? Pretexts are triggers used to create a climate of tension and not the cause of violence.
Tension manifests itself in many ways: heavy silences, prolonged absences, threats, aggressive tone, prompt gestures, sighs, veiled reproaches, excessive anger, threatening looks, intimidation. The intimate partner knows that the tension will almost certainly lead to an outburst and that they will suffer.
The intimate partner perceives this growing threat and tries by all means to calm the atmosphere. The woman watches every of her move and hangs onto every word so as not to upset her partner, walks on eggshells, tries to please them and calms the children. The intimate partner tries to protect themself from explicit or implicit threats of violence. They adjust and focus on the moods and needs of the other spouse. They are scared and constantly seek to avoid the worst.
The aggressor uses violence on their spouse. The form used can be verbal, psychological, physical, economic, sexual or other. They may give the impression of losing control of themselves, but they are not. In fact, they let their violence erupt with the firm intention of maintaining control over their partner. In such a context, the intimate partner feels outraged, destitute and helpless, because everything they do to reduce tension does not work.
Sometimes, however, the intimate partner reacts and defends themself against the aggression to stop the attack and ensure their safety. These are called reactive violence behaviours.
Further to this crisis, the victim will be destabilized. They may question the behaviours of their partner or the relationship itself.
Immediately after the assault, the aggressor tries to justify their behaviour. They minimize the character and severity of the aggression. They mention their problems with alcohol, drugs or overuse of medication, problems at work or with colleagues, physical or sexual abuse suffered in childhood, rejection by parents, foster care, health problems such as depression or physical pain. They say they are unable to control their violence, blame their partner, saying that their partner dramatizes, that they do not understand, that they do not love them enough, that they are completely crazy or that they did not have to provoke them. In short, they make the intimate partner responsible for their own actions and then quickly return to normal life.
Faced with all these justifications, and because of all the messages received previously, the intimate partner forgets their own anger. They end up feeling partly responsible for the violent behaviour of the spouse. They come to believe that, by changing their own attitudes and behaviours, the violence will be resolved.
The aggressor starts to mix up their perception of the intimate partner and begins to express regret. They seem to want to reconcile and humbly ask their spouse for forgiveness, beg for their help and beg them to start all over again. They even buy gifts and fall very much in love again, compliment the intimate partner and make them many promises. Throughout this period, the intimate partner rediscovers their partner. This apparent remorse gives the intimate partner a high threshold of tolerance for aggression, as the spouse assures the intimate partner that they will no longer be violent if the intimate partner fulfills their requests. This phase also maintains the intimate partner’s hope that everything will be resolved.