The Cycle of Abuse

Domestic abuse may seem unpredictable however; domestic abuse follows a typical pattern that repeats itself. Statistically the severity of abuse increases the longer the cycle continues.

Understanding the thinking of the abuser within the cycle helps survivors recognize they are not to blame for the violence they have suffered. In order for the cycle of abuse to stop it is imperative that the victim sees that the abuser is the one responsible for the abuse.

The longer the abuse is allowed to continue the more the abuse becomes accepted and rationalized, prolonging an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship as the abuse intensifies (see the Boiling Frog Metaphor).

During the stages of abuse, the abused person reacts the best way they know how as resignation and hopelessness becomes their reality.


Five Pillars of Freedom Cycle of Abuse Model

Cycle of Abuse Model

The Five Pillars of Freedom program provides a detailed perspective and strategies for both the Victim and Abuser in terms of the rational and actions throughout life in their abusive relationship.


Throughout an abusive relationship there is an underlying Tension. 

For the Victim: Life feels like walking on “Egg Shells”.  The tension building stage is about denial. The victim will often deny that the abuser is responsible for the abuse, instead blaming external factors or themselves.

For the Abuser: The tension building stage is about a lack of control. During this stage minor abuse incidents will occur, including verbal and psychological abuse. The abuser may be aware of this negative behavior, but generally does not accept responsibility.


Explosion / Abuse:

The abusive explosion is typically intense, highly emotional and short-term in length.  Abuse can involve emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, economic and social.

For the Victim: Fear and hopelessness are a huge part of what goes through the mind of someone that is encountering abuse. Abuse causes long term self-esteem issues and profound emotional repercussions for the victim and therefore very hard to recover from.

For the Abuser:
Abusers, physical or emotional, are abusive often because of their own self-hate and internal issues (not because of anything their victim did). No amount of work or attempting to please will stop an abuser from abusing. They have to be willing to recognize and actually work on their own issues before they can stop inflicting cruelty on the people who love them. Abuse is used to control and destroy the self-esteem of the victim.

The Stages of an Abusive RelationshipConnie-Cycle-of-Abuse

Throughout an abusive relationship, whether it is spousal, child, parental, worker, etc. the Victim uses strategies to avoid the evitable tension build up and explosion phases.  There are three distinct stages that an abusive relationship encounters based on the length of the relationship:


Early Stage: Honeymoon

For the Victim: The Honeymoon stage is when the victim feels hopeful about the relationship’s potential. Of course the victim wants to believe that “this time” the abuser really will change. The victim will often interpret the abuser’s abuse, depression, and pleading as proof that they are in love. Victim might feel responsible for the violence and therefore shame.

For the Abuser: The Honeymoon stage is when the abuser begs for forgiveness. The abuser pleads with and attempts to blame the victim. The abuser often will promise the domestic violence will not happen again. If drugs or alcohol were involved in previous incidents, the abuser will promise to give those up. Another way an abuser may create normalcy after a violent episode is to become the thoughtful, charming and kind person that the victim fell in love with. The abuser may take the victim out to dinner, buy flowers and convince the victim that things will change.


Stage Two: Enabling / Avoiding

For the Victim: During the Enabling / Avoiding stage, the victim does everything they can think of to enable the abuser’s behavior (eg. saying or doing things to keep the abuser happy or distract the abuser from things that make them angry) in order to avoid the abuser’s explosive abuse.  If the victim has visible injuries, explanation of how the victim received the injuries will have to be made. The victim may feel deserving of some of the treatment and therefore embarrassed and ashamed to expose the abuse. The victim may believe that the abuse was justified either because of what they did or did not do.

For the Abuser:
During this stage, the abuser may use different tactics to regain power over the victim. The abuser may act as though nothing happened and everything is normal. This can make the victim feel crazy, unaware of how the abuser could pretend nothing happened. The abuser makes excuses and blames the victim for the inappropriate behavior. Common excuses usually revolve around the abuser being intoxicated or abused as a child. Blaming statements usually focus on the victim’s behavior. For example, “If you had the house cleaned, I wouldn’t have had to hit you,” This stage is to transfer responsibility for the abusive behavior onto the victim.


Final Stage: Resignation / Defeated

For the Victim: The feeling of being both responsible for and helpless to stop the violence can lead to depression and passivity. These feelings of indifference make it difficult for the victim to establish the resources and support system needed to leave.  After many years of abuse, most important with this stage is that the victim believes this is how the rest of their life is going to be.

For the Abuser:
The abuser does not experience this stage because they are caught up in their need for control. In many cases, the abuser is in complete control of the relationship and victim’s life. In fact when the victim takes action for their own life, the abuser many times is surprised by the victim’s actions to remove themselves from the abusive relationship.

Five Pillars Book Cover

The Five Pillars of Freedom

In a nut shell: We provide the necessary information to help those stuck within the Cycle of Abuse to take back control of their life. We help those who feel stuck to understand the actions that are needed to live the life they were born to live.

Our program is designed for an individual to first take our Self-Awareness Assessment to help participants understand where they are within the abuse cycle.

Our Wish is not just Inform… but Transform!

N4F provides financial support to Abuse Shelters by donating 5% of the sales of Five Pillars of Freedom