[Michael Salter: Associate Professor of Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of NSW]
The cycle of violence refers to a common pattern that occurs in abusive relationships where there’s an increase in tension and conflict in an abusive relationship leading up to a violent flare up. There’s then violence, then often after the violence the male offender is apologising and promising not to do it again. There can be a feeling of intimacy and closeness in the relationship where the woman feels very relieved that the violent incident is over and it’s very confusing for her and it becomes very difficult and bewildering for domestic violence victims to keep track of this cycle, this cycle of tension, build-up, violence and then apology because he presents as a very different person in the aftermath of the violence – someone that she’s been hoping to see for a while, it’s very confusing.
[Matt Pronger: Programs Manager, Australia’s CEO Challenge]
Every relationship is different. So some people will experience all forms of the cycle and all stages and other people experience just one or two. Primarily it builds up from the tension building phase and the tension building phase is that feeling of walking on egg shells. There’s an argument, there’s concerns, there’s fear, there’s apprehension and that can go on for quite some time. There’s that kind of stepping on egg shells and coming home and you can just feel that prickliness in the air and then rolls around the explosion phase and that’s a time when the violence escalates: physical, verbal, emotional, other forms of domestic and family violence and actually erupts so it comes to a head and what they talk about, obviously, in there is family, friends, children all being quiet and scared about what that looks like. There’s a lot of fear. And then we roll around to what we call the reconciliation phase where the partner or that person in the relationship tries to buy the other person back in. The apology, we get the sob story, we get the water works “I really love you”, “I’m really sorry” and the blame also happens there as well. So everyone but me gets the blame. “If my boss hadn’t done X, Y and Z, you knew I was in a bad mood, you knew I had a bad day, why did you have to push”. And then we talk about calm, or other people talk about the honeymoon phase where this person actually does some behaviours to try and get that person to buy back or love bombing, whatever that looks like. “I’ll take the kids this weekend, I’ll get them out of your hair, we’ll go ride motorbikes at my parents’ property”. We’ll do something to try and buy that person back into the relationship – all the romantic, charming kind of gestures. This is where we see the flowers and chocolates turning up at work and that cycle can go on and on. And what we see is maybe 20% of the time sometimes in this relationship it’s tension building, explosive and the time it’s not, it’s actually calm and reconciliation. So it’s quite complex for individuals to understand whether they’re in an unhealthy relationship because it’s not all this or all that, it can creep in quite subtly. “I’m just controlling the finances because I’m trying to set us up for later in life”, “I’m just checking your phone because it’s not that I don’t trust you, I don’t trust your colleagues”. “I’m just taking the car away because we can’t afford a second car”. “I’ve got to take the car to work”. And then we just start normalising these behaviours and we can start to go around in a cycle and it can get worse and worse.
Domestic and family violence takes many forms and is not just physical. These resources provide further information to help you recognise and respond to domestic and family violence.