Women's Domestic Violence & Homeless Services


The Cycle of Violence

While everyone’s experience is different, domestic violence tends to follow a common pattern, which is known as the ‘cycle of violence’.  The stages are readily recognisable, and understanding of these stages in the cycle can be the beginning of understanding that the violence is not caused by something the abused partner has done. 

The length of time each stage will last is unpredictable, and will vary from relationship to relationship.  

Power and control wheel
(Click to enlarge)


Stage 1: Build-up

Tension builds then he may resort to criticising, name calling, nothing you do is right.

The violent partner has a strong belief that they are right and seeks someone or something to blame.

The violent partner uses their power to dominate and exert control. He may use verbal/emotion/psychological abuse as well pushing, shoving and throwing things.

The violent partner watches everything she does, may monitor her phone, limit her movements and who she has contact with.

The abused partner feels responsibility to keep the violent partner calm and the children quiet and well behaved. She is living on tenterhooks. 

Escalation occurs, independent of the abused partner’s actions or external events. (No matter what she does, it will not change his behaviour which only he is responsible for).


Stage 2: Explosion

The emotional, verbal and/or psychological violence continues and then explodes into escalated abuse as well as threats and physical abuse. This may include criminal assault, threats of hurting or killing, his partner and her children or other family members and friends. He may damage property or hurt pets.

The violent partner cannot contain their rage.

This stage may last a very short time or may develop in intensity over hours, days, weeks or months.


Stage 3: Remorse/Honeymoon Stage

The violent partner may demonstrate regret and shame for their behaviour. He may be fearful that the police will become involved, neighbours may have heard, he doesn’t want others to think badly of him. He will explain away what happened.

He may seek to blame his partner or circumstances, or minimise the violence or its results. He may use excuses that he is stressed, or it’s the alcohol or drugs that made him act that way. (Remember abusers choose to drink alcohol or take drugs knowing what they do to their partner and children when they do). 

The abuser may promise it will never happen again, this is part of the game playing, playing with her mind, getting her hopes up again. Sometimes it’s a threat that is dependent on the condition that she changes her behaviour, thus making her believe it is her fault.

The abuser may make promises to attend counselling and/or get help. 

He may attempt to win back the abused partner, by buying gifts, showing increased attention to the woman and/or children, asking her opinion, giving compliments or planning family outings. This is often called the honeymoon period because everything is nice just how a healthy relationship should be, but is often the calm before the cycle begins again.