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The Abuse Cycle

Updated: Mar 13, 2019

By: John Cyril Malloy IV

PTS Falconer Contributor

December 3, 2018

Article 1/4


Over one in three women and one in four men face spousal abuse in their lifetime. A difficult pattern to escape, the abuse cycle generates a power dynamic in relationships that tears down both partners through intimidation and repetitive violence. This cycle strips both the husband and the wife of their dignity while masking the insecurities of the abuser by establishing an inferiority complex in the abused.


The first step in the build-up to domination and eventual abuse is an unrealistic feeling of general inadequacy caused by supposed subordination. Initially, a pair is joined or married before the initial tension begins. The submissive partner feels as if there is no way to understand the wants or needs of the abuser and that they are always wrong. Emotional abuse begins with intimidation, threats, and a coercive fear of violence. Intimidation will make the abused person afraid as the abuser violently breaks things, displays weapons, abuses kids or pets, and instills fear. Emotionally, the abuser will degrade their spouse by humiliating him or her, repetitively saying demeaning remarks, and controlling them. The last part of the increasing tension stage occurs when the abusive spouse uses isolation to limit the abused person’s outside involvement by using their own jealousy as justification. This power structure allows the abuser to limit who he or she sees, talks to, and what that person participates in. Power is assured through isolation. A period of violence, perhaps just one instant, will include a violent crime that is physical, emotional, or sexual. This “explosion” of violence is an outburst that both the abused and abuser recognize as utterly unethical and immoral after the fact; however, during the incident, the abuser is controlled by rage. After the violent episode, the abusers act differently as the “honeymoon” phase begins before an impending increase in the amount of agitation. In this stage, the abuser ignores or denies the violence or try to blame their anger on the abuser. The moment the abuser fears losing their partner, they act genuinely regretful and attempt to make up for their violence through presents, reassuring speeches, intimate moments, declarations of love, and making eventually unfulfilled promises. The pity that the abuser seeks and their apparent vulnerability draws the abused back into the relationship which ignites the rebuild of tension and eventual violence. Through each cycle, the violence increases in intensity and frequency while each cycle becomes quicker.


Although deviations from the classically conceived abuse cycle may exist, it is important to recognize if you or a loved one fall within the bounds of the general symptoms. These may include just a portion of the mentioned stages to a lesser degree. In fact, an instance of total violence may not even occur in a relationship that can be labeled as abuse per se. Recognition and acceptance of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse can be supported through an understanding that over ten million men and women face this exact challenge annually in the United States of America. To break the cycle, the abused partner needs to confront the reality that change may not occur no matter how deeply their love may extend. Help break the cycle of abuse and end the misery of a friend, family member, or anyone you recognize may be at risk of abuse by supporting them through their path to self-hegemony.


This article is part of a Women's Studies series:

Article 1- This one

Article 2- Invisible War: Rape Culture in the Armed Forces by John Cyril Malloy IV

Article 3- The Elephant in College by Casey McCarthy

Article 4- Ms. Massa's Women's Studies Class Should Be Required. Here's Why by Casey McCarthy

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