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Domestic Violence: Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence can happen many times in an abusive relationship. Each stage lasts a different amount of time in the relationship, with the total cycle taking from a few hours to a year or more to complete. Emotional abuse is present in all three stages.

These are some examples of abusive behaviors; however a person does not need to have experienced the following behaviors to be in an abusive relationship. There are many more behaviors not listed.

Phase 1: Tension Building Phase

Batterer may:

  • Pick fights
  • Act jealous and possessive
  • Criticize, threaten
  • Drink, use drugs
  • Be moody, unpredictable
  • Act crazy

Partner may:

  • Feel like they are walking on eggshells
  • Try to reason with the batterer
  • Try to calm the batterer
  • Try to appease the batterer
  • Keep silent, try to keep children quiet
  • Feel afraid or anxious 

Phase 2: Crisis Phase

Batterer may:

  • Verbally abuse
  • Sexually assault
  • Physically abuse
  • Increase control over money or phone
  • Restrain partner
  • Destroy property
  • Emotionally assault

Partner may:

  • Experience fear, shock
  • Protect self and children
  • Use self-defense
  • Call for help
  • Try to flee, leave
  • Pray for it to stop
  • Do what is necessary to survive 

Phase 3: Calmer Phase

Batterer may:

  • Ask for forgiveness
  • Promise it won't happen again
  • Stop drinking, using drugs
  • Go to counseling
  • Be affectionate
  • Initiate intimacy
  • Minimize or deny abuse

Partner may:

  • Forgive
  • Return home
  • Arrange for counseling
  • Feel hopeful
  • Feel manipulated
  • Blame self
  • Minimize or deny abuse 

Adapted from L. Walker, The Battered Woman, Harper and Row, New York, 1980.