October is #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth, a period dedicated to shedding light on a deeply troubling and widespread issue that affects many people worldwide. This silent epidemic isn’t always cut & dry to comprehend. You may ask yourself why someone would remain in an abusive relationship, but understanding the cycle of abuse is a crucial step in helping survivors and preventing future violence. In this blog post, I’m breaking down the cycle of abuse and it’s various phases, why victims tend to stay in these types of situations, how to break free from the cycle of abuse and resources for those who may be experiencing abuse. Let’s dive in.
Recognizing the Cycle of Abuse
The cycle of abuse typically begins with a phase called the “honeymoon phase.” During this period, the abuser may shower their victim with love, affection & apologies. They may promise to change and typically, things can briefly improve. This phase is often confusing and hopeful, leading survivors to believe the abuse was an isolated incident that will never happen again (which is a lie… it will happen again).
After the honeymoon phase, tension starts to build. Small arguments escalate & the victim often feels like they’re walking on eggshells to avoid triggering the abuser. During this phase, emotional and psychological abuse becomes more frequent, creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
The tension eventually reaches its breaking point, leading to the explosive/violence phase. In this phase, the abuse becomes physical, emotional, or even sexual. It’s the most dangerous and terrifying part of the cycle. Survivors often blame themselves, thinking they provoked the abuser, which perpetuates the cycle of abuse.
Following the explosive phase, there’s often a period of calm. The abuser may express remorse, apologize profusely & promise to change their ways. They may appear remorseful, which can confuse the victim even more. During this phase, the victim may hold on to hope that the abuser has truly changed, reinforcing the cycle’s beginning.
Understanding the entire cycle of abuse is essential in helping victims recognize the pattern and take steps toward breaking free from the abuse. Now, you may ask yourself (especially if you’ve never been in this type of relationship), why would someone stay? It’s not that simple. Let’s break down some common reasons why victims find it difficult to leave abusive relationships.
Understanding Why Victims Stay
Fear is one of the most common reasons victims stay in abusive relationships. They fear of what the abuser’s reaction will be if they try to leave or seek help. The threats made during the explosive phase of the cycle of abuse can be terrifying, making it seem safer to stay.
Abusers often isolate their victims from friends and family, making them feel like they have nowhere to turn. This isolation can lead to a sense of hopelessness, making it a huge challenge for survivors to leave and end the cycle of abuse.
Did you know that up to 99% of domestic violence victims suffer from some sort of financial abuse? Many survivors are financially dependent on their abusers, which can make it extremely difficult to escape the relationship. The fear of losing financial support or housing can be paralyzing, especially with children involved. If you’re looking for more information & resources on financial abuse, check out this blog post.
Abusers frequently manipulate their victims into believing they are worthless and unlovable. These manipulative actions break down their self-esteem, making them feel like they deserve the abuse or can’t find anyone else who would love them. There can also be a huge lack of self-worth within the victim which plays a role in the lack of self-esteem.
Violence Worsening When Deciding to Leave
Another huge reason victims stay is the fact that violence can sometimes escalate when they do decide to leave. Statistics show that leaving an abusive relationship is a critical moment when the risk of severe violence or homicide increases. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.
- In a study of intimate partner homicides, it was found that 20% of victims were killed when they tried to leave the relationship, while 72% were killed after they had already left.
These stats highlight the life-threatening danger that survivors often face when attempting to break free from an abusive partner. It’s important to acknowledge this risk and seek professional guidance and support when planning to leave an abusive relationship.
How to Break Free from the Cycle of Abuse
Recognize the Abuse
The first step in breaking the cycle of abuse is recognizing that you are in an abusive relationship. Understand that the abuse is not your fault, and you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
Reach Out for Support
You don’t have to face this alone. Reach out to friends, family, or organizations that specialize in domestic violence support. There are people who want to help you and can provide guidance and resources.
Create a Safety Plan
Plan for your safety before taking any steps to leave the relationship. This may involve finding a safe place to stay, gathering important documents, and having a support network in place.
Seek Professional Help
Therapists, counselors, and support groups can be invaluable in helping you heal from the trauma of abuse. Professional guidance can also help you regain your self-esteem and rebuild your life. If you’re looking for affordable online therapy sessions in the comfort of your own home, BetterHelp® is a proud sponsor of Watch Us Thrive. Save 10% off your first month of online therapy!
Resources for Help
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are resources available:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788 or visit www.thehotline.org for confidential support and resources.
- Local Domestic Violence Shelters: Find a shelter near you where you can seek refuge and support.
- Therapists, Counselors & Coaching: Seek therapy or counseling to help you heal and rebuild your life. I offer 1:1 coaching for women who are on the journey of finding themselves after leaving a toxic and/or abusive relationship.
- Support Groups: Join support groups for survivors of domestic violence to connect with others who have experienced similar situations.
- Listen to my podcast: I have many episodes featuring survivors of domestic violence you can check out below. Listening to other people’s testimonies can be very healing and can also allow you to feel less alone in your own situation. Be sure to check back frequently (or better yet, SUBSCRIBE!) so you don’t miss out on new episodes which release every Tuesday.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the cycle of abuse in domestic violence is the first step toward ending the cycle and finding freedom and safety. Remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE, and help is available. Reach out to the resources mentioned in this blog post or contact a trusted friend or family member. You deserve to live a life free from abuse, you deserve to feel safe in your relationships and never forget that there is a beautiful life to live after leaving.
For free resources around domestic violence, CLICK HERE for podcast episodes featuring different survivor stories!
Looking for 1:1 Support?
As a personal development coach whose had their fair share of some pretty toxic relationships, I’ve become an expert of my own experience. I designed my 3-month coaching program especially for women like you who’ve also made it through toxic relationships.
During our 3 months together, I will help you rebuild your self-worth & create the life you truly deserve. Together, we’ll heal, thrive & unleash your inner goddess who no longer allows somebody’s dusty ass son stress them the f*ck out!
If you’re ready to find yourself again after leaving that toxic relationship, unleash the badass and step into your power, book a complimentary discovery call so I can help guide you back to your inner magic. I can’t wait to meet you
*Note: I am not a trained mental health professional. Life coaching is NOT therapy. Life coaching is a space to help you achieve your goals and focus on breaking free from limiting beliefs that have you feeling stuck!
If you’re looking for a therapist, check out BetterHelp®. BetterHelp® is a proud sponsor of Watch Us Thrive. Get professional support when you need it, at a fraction of the cost of in-person therapy. Sign up today to receive 10% off your first month.