Friday, October 10, 2008
Special Series: The Truth About Domestic Violence (Part 2)
Click here for part one of our special domestic violence series.
What are the cycles that an abusive relationship goes through?
On top of the tactics mentioned in the first article that an abuser will use as a way of keeping power and control over a woman in a relationship, the relationship will go through 3 major phases of what’s called the Cycle of Violence. Over time, certain phases will disappear altogether until there is nothing but violence.
The first phase is the Tension Building Phase. This is where the woman feels the overwhelming need to keep the abuser calm, and will do whatever she can to keep it that way. One example is “I have to cook his food this way because that’s the way his mother fixes it. If it’s not fixed right, he’ll get angry.” Or, “It’s my fault. I didn’t fix his food right, and that’s why he got mad.” Another example is keeping the kids extremely quiet so as not to disturb him. The whole family ends up walking on eggshells for fear of making him upset. In the meantime, this is the phase where the abuser yells, uses angry gestures, threatens and criticizes. The tension keeps building in the relationship – the woman doesn’t know when he’s going to hit her, and she becomes fearful and anxious. She may even provoke him just so he can hit her and get it over with.
The second phase is the Violence Phase. This is the shortest and most intense phase of the cycle. This is where the abuser actually carries out threats, resulting in physical and/or sexual attacks. The he turns around and blames the violence on the victim – “If you just did what I said, I wouldn’t have to hit you.” Because he’s made the woman to feel it’s her fault, she will assume responsibility for his actions and make excuses for him . She will do whatever she has to do to survive. And, because he knows she will make excuses for her, he’ll do it again.
The third phase is the Honeymoon Phase. This is the most manipulative phase of the three, and the quickest to disappear until there’s nothing but Tension Building and Violence. This is where the abuser apologizes for the physical and emotional assaults from the Violence Phase. You may have heard things like “Baby, I didn’t mean to hit you. You know it makes me crazy when you dress sexy,” or “I’m sorry. How about we go away for a weekend, just the two of us?” He actually starts acting like he did when you two first met. Then she says, “Aww, baby that’s ok. I didn’t mean to make you angry.” The woman, yet again, starts to melt inside, and forgives him for what he did. She may even rationalize his behavior and make herself feel good in the process, because her self esteem is slowly slipping away– “He’s not that bad after all,” “If I make him crazy like THAT, I must be the bomb! It makes her feel like she’s the one in control. That is, until his next violent episode. This is also the phase where she is manipulated into believing that the abuser will change.
These 3 phases are meant to keep the woman in a constant state of emotional turmoil– it eventually wears down her resolve, her inner strength, her self esteem, until she’s nothing more than a human shell. We as humans have basic needs – a need to feel loved, a need to belong and a need to feel wanted. These needs stem from childhood and continue into adulthood, and in an attempt to fill those needs as an adult, a woman may find herself drawn into relationships that are not healthy for her.
Whether we want to admit it or not, Inside of us is a romantic fantasy of waiting for that right man to say just the right things to us, to sweep us off our feet, and make us feel special. What the Honeymoon Phase actually does is cause the woman to have a false sense of security about the relationship. Because she wants to make the Honeymoon Phase last as long as it can, she inadvertently becomes more and more dependent on the abuser, which increases her isolation.
When you continue to read these articles, I will refer to the victims as women. Truth be told, although abusive experiences are different, whether the abuser is a man or woman, whether the victim is a man or a woman, the pain is still the same.
But, since I’m a woman, I can only speak from the standpoint of a woman that has survived an abusive relationship! What I mentioned above are just some examples of elements of an abusive relationship.
There are values, beliefs and stereotypes that contribute to domestic violence continuing from generation to generation. What are they? All will be revealed in the next article!
If you are in crisis and need immediate assistance, please visit http://www.opdv.state.ny.us/about_dv/fss/resource.html or call 311 for helpful numbers and resources .
Ivette Attaud-Jones, is a social entrepreneur, former army wife and a 19 year survivor of domestic violence. After the loss of her infant twin daughter to domestic violence and beginning her journey to healing, she has made it her mission to speak out against domestic violence by raising awareness within the community. Ivette is the Founder and Program Director for My Life My Soul, The Unspoken Journey of Life After Domestic Abuse, an empowering support group for women, due to launch October 1.
She is also the author of Silent No More, A Woman’s Story of Surviving Domestic Abuse in the Military, due to be published in the near future. She has also served on the Battered Women’s Justice Committee of Voices of Women Organizing Project; regularly appeared on the Bronx public access show, Healing Touch on Channel 70; and has facilitated a domestic violence workshop for clergy members. You can reach Ivette at