Cycle of Abuse Wheel. How to Get Out of It?
Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Psychology)
Last updated date : February 23, 2023
Abuse can take many forms. In terms of intimate partner violence, experts often mention a cycle. This cycle refers to a pattern of abuse that exists in a violent relationship. Abuse can happen to males and females both. What is this cycle of abuse? This article explores the cycle of the abuse wheel.
Abuse in relationships can occur at any point. Many times the victim is not even aware that they are going through violence. This cycle of abuse wheel, therefore, continues in a relationship. Moreover, in an abusive relationship, there is a power imbalance. The person who perceives themselves as more powerful dominates the other. Abuse can be classified into four types. Not all abusers engage in all kinds of abuse. However, they engage in at least one form of abuse.
Types of Abuse
- Physical Abuse: Here the partner physically injures the other one. This is in the form of pushing, pulling, choking, or hitting. Moreover, the partner can violently drag the person or hurt with sharp objects. Burning, slapping, punching, or physically blocking are some other forms.
- Sexual Violence: Sexual violence can be a form of physical violence. It involves non-consensual sex with the partner. This also includes forcing the partner to undress and taking pictures of the partner without consent. Passing foul sexual remarks or hurting the intimate organs of the partner.
- Verbal Abuse: This involves the use of foul language by the partner. Additionally, the abusive partner can manipulate the other. The verbal violence can be indirect. For example, calling names or targeting the character, or saying mean things about the partner. Moreover, using language that brings down the self-esteem of a person is also included in verbal abuse.
- Emotional Abuse: This involves emotional damage to a person. Moreover, the abusive partner can question the judgment of their partner. The partner is left confused and guilty.
Cycle of Abuse
The Tension Phase
This is the stage where the violent partner begins to lose cool. In this stage of the cycle of abuse, there are external triggers that irritate them and their temper continues to rise. For instance, a fight at the office can trigger the person. They may carry this home. The other partner can even sense the tension. They try their best to cool off the situation. However, the anger of a violent partner keeps building. In this stage, the victim can get nervous. Additionally, they walk on eggshells so that they don’t irritate their partner more. The violent partner feels the loss of control here.Storm- An Incident of Violence
This is the stage of the cycle of abuse wheel when the actual incident happens. In this stage, the tension has built up to the level that it needs release. Therefore in this stage, the blow-off happens. The violent partner does the actual action here. In order to regain control, the violent partner will hit or verbally abuse the other. A lot of displacement of anger takes place here. The violent partner blames the other one for all that has gone wrong. Here the violent partner will threaten or insult the other partner.Reconciliation
In this stage of the cycle of abuse, all the mending work takes place. The period of the storm has passed and the repair has to be done. Therefore in this stage, the abuser will buy gifts for the partner. They will try very hard to convince the partner. This phase is also called the ‘Honeymoon stage’. This is because here the partner is at their best. Just like it was at the beginning of the relationship. The victim partner will start feeling that their ‘real’ relationship is back. Moreover, the extra love from the partner will lead to an increase in feel-good hormones such ‘as dopamine’ and ‘oxytocin’. This will lead to them feeling closer to their partner as if everything is back to normal.
CalmThis phase is like the calm after the storm. Here is where all the explanations for the abuse are given. For example, the abuser will say that they were angry because of their colleagues. They will also deny the abuse or they may say that it wasn’t as bad. Moreover, the abuser will promise that the abuse won’t take place again.
This cycle repeats over time. However, it should be noted that not all abuse happens in a cycle. Abusive relationships can be of different dynamics. This cycle explains a general pattern of abuse in relationships.However, there are many instances where the violence takes place with no fixed pattern.
How to Break the Cycle of Abuse?
Here are some steps that can help you break the cycle of abuse.
- Acknowledge that the abuse exists. Often people don’t realize that the abuse is happening. They see violence as on and off events. It is important to note that what is happening is wrong.
- Once you have realized that the abuse is happening, you need to make an exit map for safety reasons. This can include saving money for the future or making a list of emergency contacts.
- Another step can be to seek expert help. You and your partner can both seek therapy.
- You can also set boundaries to abuse. If you see abuse happening every now and then, create limits if exiting is not an option. Communicate your boundaries to your partner and take action if they are crossed.
- Talk to your loved ones. Abuse can be overwhelming. Over time it can indeed affect your judgment. It is important that someone in your family is aware of it.