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LIANNE [lee-ann]
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Understanding the Cycle of Abuse in Domestic Violence

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

Make-up/Honeymoon Phase

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).

Tension-Building Phase

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.

Explosive/Violence Phase

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.

Calm Phase

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.

Financial Dependence

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.

Low Self-esteem

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:

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:

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!

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.