The cycle of abuse we need to break

The cycle of abuse, aka the cycle of violence, helps illustrate common patterns of abusive behaviour in relationships. It also helps provide an understanding of why it can be difficult for a women experiencing abuse to break free.

If any of the information in this post resonates with your experience, please know that we have a wonderful support team on the other end of the phone who can talk through your situation and options with you. You’re not alone and you deserve to feel safe with the person you love.

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During the tension-building phase, an abuser starts getting increasingly irritable, angry and irrational and his victim will try to calm him and reason with him, in an attempt to deescalate the situation.

As he withholds affection, puts her down and starts arguments, she will feel as though she’s walking on eggshells and will be careful with any words she speaks. This period is so confusing and anxiety inducing as she experiences humiliation, anger, hopelessness and fear, especially as it comes just after the calm and happy honeymoon period which provided hope.


At the explosion phase, the abuser attempts to dominate his victim through aggressive verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.

As she tries to protect herself, the victim feels helpless and may try to seek help from others afterwards. However in many cases, she keeps the ‘explosion’ a secret and doesn’t share what happened with others (which is why it’s important to regularly check in and learn to identify the signs). In some cases, his violence will put her in hospital (though she might not disclose the cause of her injury to health care staff) and as we know from the heart-breaking number of femicides in the UK, in extreme cases, his violence kills her.


During the honeymoon phase, the abuser shows remorse for the physical, verbal, or sexual abuse he inflicted on his victim. He cries, he apologises, he tells her he loves her, he begs, he threatens suicide. He promises that he will get counselling and will never do that again, even though it’s happened before. He buys her gifts, shows her affection and makes her feel loved as she feels relief and a false sense of security again. She takes him back.

He now tries to minimise his abuse, deny it took place or blame it on her, telling her she made him ‘explode’ (yell, punch, r*pe…) because of what she said or did. He then lives as if the explosion never happened and remains calm for some time, until he builds up the tension again…