The Cycle of Violence Continues

A Family in Crisis: A True Story

The incident of domestic violence that we witnessed in the last two articles in our series on A Family in Crisis is typical of the physical abuse that occurs in thousands of homes each day. For many, it is a cycle that repeats over and over.

According to the Domestic Violence Handbook, the cycle of violence goes like this:

The Incident -- Some type of abuse occurs. It may be physical, as in the case of David and Glenda, but it can also be sexual or emotional.

Abuse takes many forms.

Making Up -- In this stage, the abuser may apologize for the incident, but he (or in many cases she) may also deny that it took place or minimize it. He may try to blame the victim for causing the abuse, as David did when he opened the conversation saying, "I can't believe you threw dinner in the garbage." In this case, Glenda bought into that line of thinking and blamed herself for his outburst.

Pretending It Didn't Happen

Calm -- During this phase, the abusive party may actually keep some of the promises made during the making up stage. He may give gifts to the victim. This is what David did -- bringing flowers home to Glenda along with the groceries later the next day. The abusers usually act like nothing ever happened during this phase of the cycle, and the victim gets the false impression that the abuse is over.

Tension Building -- After the period of calm, which can last for a few hours or even years in some cases, the abuser begins to display anger.

Verbal abuse may begin and usually, there is a breakdown in communication. During this time the victim feels she needs to keep the abuser calm. She feels like she is walking on egg shells.

Not all abusive relationships fit the cycle described above, but for many, it is typical and will repeat many times throughout the relationship.

The amount of time each phase of the cycle takes can vary and as time goes on, and the abuse progresses, the making up and calm stages of the cycle can disappear altogether.

When we left David and Glenda they were in the "making up" phase -- in which she took the blame for the outburst and he promised it would never happen again. But it did happen again, many times. In reality, the incident described last week took place more than 20 years ago.

A Pattern of Abuse

It was a pattern that would continue to repeat in their lives, even though they divorced a few years later. They both moved on to new relationships and new marriages, but that did not stop the pattern of abuse in their lives.

Glenda continued to be attracted to abusive partners -- not all were physically abusive but emotionally abusive at the very least. David married twice more and was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive to both wives, as he always has been with all the women in his life. and emotionally abusive to both wives, as he always has been with all the women in his life.

Now, 20 years later, both divorced, David and Glenda are making up again. Having found each other available after so many years they are in the "honeymoon stage" of a new, exciting adventure. But this time was different. Glenda instinctively knew that something was wrong.

Lonely and feeling rejected after the break-up of her most recent marriage, she wanted their new relationship to work out, but something told her there was just something not right about it. For the first time in her life, she took a step that would break the cycle.

This time, she reached out for help.

Next: What Makes Them Stay?

Previously in 'A Family in Crisis'

Part 1: A Family in Crisis
Part 2: An Alcoholic in Denial
Part 3: A Family Disease
Part 4: The Cycle of Violence

Has your relationship crossed the line to become an abusive one? Take the Abuse Screening Quiz.

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