There has been a great deal of research which indicates that there are patterns to violence in abusive relationships and is often referred to as “the cycle of violence”. It has been useful for many women in violent relationships to notice these patterns in order to predict attacks, however it is important to note that there are many situations where violence is not predictable.

The cycle has five phases and begins with what is known as the build up phase. This phase can run over any length of time and usually is a period of high tension caused by anything from work stressors, family or financial pressures or destructive thought patterns. The build up phase generally includes stand over tactics such as verbal threats.

These threats raise the level of fear of the partner and enable the male partner to gain greater control of the situation. Ultimately the perpetrator explodes in a rage of violence which is called the explosion phase. The remorse phase follows the explosion, where the perpetrator feels ashamed and guilty because of his actions. He may fear that his partner will leave, so he makes a greater effort in the relationship.

Some women choose to believe that the violence will not be repeated. During this phase the perpetrator may deny or minimise what occurred during the explosion or even look for reasons outside him for what happened. Next is the pursuit phase where the perpetrator attempts to win back the love and affection of his partner. This usually involves gifts and promises of changed behaviour. Lastly is the honeymoon phase which is a time of intense intimacy and denial of the previous abuse.

Women, while confused, are less inclined to exit the relationship at this time. She sees the batterer as sincere and loving and chooses to believe this is what he is really like, and if she supports him things will change. The perpetrator becomes increasingly more confident in the relationship until the cycle is repeated. Calm loving behaviour gives way to smaller incidents until the tension reoccurs and a new cycle of violence and battering begins again.