October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is important to understand the cycle of battering if we are to break it and help those who may be victims of domestic abuse. Though there are always variations in behavior, the following description of the phases of battering have been recognized as the patterns experienced by most victims of chronic abuse.
Stage 1. Tension Building - Tension begins to rise, and the abuser becomes edgy and more prone to react negatively to frustrations. This tension increases to the point where the abuser feels s/he has lost control over the victim. Abuse occurs and escalates.
Abuser’s Response: moody; nitpicky; isolates victim; withdraws affection; criticizes and puts down victim; yells; drinks or does drugs; threatens.
Victim’s Response: attempts to calm abuser; nurtures; silent or talkative, whatever s/he thinks will keep the abuser calm; stays away from family and friends; withdraws; tries to reason; generally feels like walking on eggshells.
Stage 2. Acute Battering - The abuser begins to lose self-control. The victim becomes more emotionally detached, knowing that to fight back usually results in increased violence. This is the shortest stage, during which the abuse or violence occurs. It ends when the abuser feels that the victim has "learned his/her lesson". Both partners deny or minimize the brutality.
Stage 3. Loving Behavior - This stage is often welcomed by both parties. The victim wants to believe that s/he no longer has to suffer abuse, and the batterer's loving behavior during this stage supports the victim's belief that the batterer really can change. This stage will continue until the batterer's confidence is built back up, and the cycle will begin again. Research has shown that as time passes, the honeymoon portion of the cycle grows shorter and shorter and sometimes disappears altogether.
Abuser's Response: begs forgiveness, promises to get counseling, declares love, enlists family support, and brings presents.
Victim's Response: agrees to stay, returns or takes batterer back, attempts to stop legal proceedings, sets up counseling appointments, feels happy, hopeful.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence you may call 911 for immediate help or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). There is help available for abusers through the Battering Intervention and Prevention Program by calling 214-692-8295.
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