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Cycles of Abuse

Relationship violence (also known as intimate partner violence or IPV, dating violence, or domestic violence) is a pattern of physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abusive behaviors used by one individual to assert control or maintain power over a partner in the context of an intimate or family relationship. Relationship violence rarely occurs as an isolated incident.

Violent behaviors can range from verbal threats, put-downs, and name calling to slapping, hitting, pushing and sexual assault. Relationship violence is against the law and against university policy.

If you are being abused by your partner, you may feel confused, afraid, angry, and/or trapped. You may even be blaming yourself for what is happening. All of these emotions are normal responses to the abuse you are experiencing. When abuse occurs, it is rarely a single incident.

No matter what others say, you are not responsible for your partner’s abusive actions.



Cycle of Abuse in Relationships

Abuse in relationships can follow a cyclical pattern. Violent behavior typically repeats throughout the cycle. Keep in mind that not all of the victim/abuser behaviors listed below always occur; these are just some examples of commonly reported reactions.

Honeymoon Phase

Often marked by apologies, excuses, remorse, doing things to try and “make up” for hurtful actions, saying “it won’t happen again,” buying presents, etc.

Rising Tension

Old feelings and thoughts come back, fighting increases, being critical or disrespectful, being judgemental, personal anger increases.

Violence Occurs

Hitting, damaging property, yelling, making threats, pushing, punching, etc.

Power and Control

Intimate partner violence is rooted in power and control. In the image below, you can see how most aspects of abuse are not physical, but are emotional, sexual, and even economic. Physical violence is the force that is used to keep someone under control when the others behaviors do not work.

Eight Types of Abuse graphic

Ten Warning Signs of Abuse

While there are many warning signs of abuse, here are ten of the most common behaviors exhibited by abusers to their partners:

  1. Checking their partner’s cell phone or e-mail without permission
  2. Constant put-downs
  3. Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  4. Explosive temper
  5. Financial control
  6. Isolating their partner from family or friends
  7. Mood swings
  8. Physically hurting their partner in any way
  9. Possessiveness
  10. Telling their partner what to do

This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-WA-AX-0024 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.