Cycle of Domestic Violence

Before I say anything else, I’d like to point out that I realize I wasn’t actually doing the potty training method correctly.  I’m sure it is really an effective way of potty training little kids, but I definitely won’t be trying it again.  Whew!

Well, I tried to give some real thought to what I intended to say about Domestic Violence during the month of October.  I sketched out my thoughts on my whiteboard and put it down on the bed in my computer room.  Then, while I was editing another post, Liam discovered the whiteboard and dry-erase marker and scribbled all over my thoughts.   Anyway, it’s not all Liam’s fault.  I’m posting out of order.  In my first post, I linked out to the Wheel of Domestic Violence when I really intended to show the Cycle of Domestic Violence.  Wheels and cycles… They’re both round.  Then I posted about my personal experience with DV without having explained or linked to the Cycle of Domestic Violence, to which I refer a few times.  I apologize for the oversight.

When I was learning about this, they called the “Absence of Battering” stage the Honeymoon stage, and that is what I was referring to in my other post.

There is a very good explanation of this here.  But to enlarge upon what has already been said elsewhere, the cycle consists of three phases.   Tension building is where the abusive nature of the relationship is initially established.  The abuser is irritated, stressed or preoccupied, seemingly all the time.  He/she instigates lots of small-scale conflicts with the victim, which are designed to establish his dominance in the relationship and also distract from his real purposes.  The abuser blames the victim consistently for the problems and she tries to keep him happy.  The tension escalates over time and eventually results in a Violent Episode.

The Violent Episode is just what it sounds like.  Except that instead of an incident of extreme (or uncharacteristically vicious) violence, the couple may experience a moment where they both become aware that she is afraid of him and realize that something is terribly wrong.

This is followed by the Absence of Violence or Honeymoon phase.  What happens here is that both partners step back from the abyss and try to mend their relationship.  The violent partner may shower the victim with extravagant gifts.  If drinking or drug use was involved in the Violent Episode, he (or she) may agree to go to AA or NA and actually attend a few meetings.  There are usually promises never to harm the victim again and the perpetrator will be on his best behavior for as long as he is able to maintain it.  I am publishing this Cycle because I sincerely believe that if more people were aware of how Domestic Violence typically plays out, they would be more likely to recognize it in their relationships sooner.

And then the cycle starts over.  That’s just the thing about cycles.  Nothing is likely to change or get better unless one person leaves or they get help specifically geared toward DV.  Referring to my own experience with this, I sought counseling at my college the spring before the relationship ended.  I think I mostly talked to her about other problems I was facing at the time.  She did not recognize the nature of what I was going through and gave me materials on depression and changing faulty cognitive patterns.  Specifically, she had me do “The Feeling Good Workbook” by David Burns, which I recommend to anyone who is not currently being abused.  This illustrates nicely, by the way, the fact that the abuse cycle will not likely end because the victim (only) receives counseling.  Cognitive-based therapy for depression is actually a really good and effective treatment option.  But the problem is that it maintains a heavy focus on what the individual receiving therapy is doing to cause or facilitate his or her own problems.  For people in an abusive situation however, this just plays into the abuser’s hand, as their normal MO is to tell the victim that what’s happening is really his/her fault.

Domestic Violence has a sameness to it that is really quite shocking.  I’m not trying to say here that everyone experiences it the same way, but that if you have experienced it yourself, there are many, many others whose experiences will literally mirror your own.  It’s a great illustration of the second  part of the quote by Simone Weil (Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring…)  Real evil is not only boring, it is common.

In conclusion, if you have recognized yourself in my writing, and you are still in the relationship, please get help.  Contact your local Domestic Violence response agency (In the Charleston, SC area that would be My Sister’s House).  Please contact someone knowledgeable about DV before you attempt to leave.  Victims are often in the most danger when they try to leave, and if you call your local shelter, they can help you evaluate the situation and plan a safe course of action.  And once you have left, get counseling.  Seriously.

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.