I wish I had a nickel for every time I hear the phrase “the cycle of abuse.” It’s constant. People say about victims,”she really needs to break the cycle!” (This makes me so angry! As if the victim could do that anyway, when she has no control of the abuse – its not HER behavior!)
Here’s what you need to know. There IS NO “cycle” of abuse. We don’t need to be using that term. If you use it, please stop.
The cycle theory of abuse is no longer used by professionals in this field because we understand DV much, much better after decades of work with victims, and learning from them.
The “Power and Control Wheel” graphic was created from the input of many victims and survivors, and replaced the cycle. Why? Because we now know that there is no predictable pattern of “tension-violence-honeymoon” in relationships where domestic violence is occurring. If only it were that simple.
Here’s the truth. DV is constant; it NEVER stops, it just occurs in many, many different forms. It is a systematic ongoing siege. The tactic may vary from moment to moment – it may be verbal one minute, physical the next, always financial, always emotional, sometimes sexual – but there is ALWAYS power and control going on.
And there is never a honeymoon! Honeymoons are sweet, wonderful, full of mutual caring and sharing based on trust and love. But it’s never wonderful after an awful episode of abuse.
What used to be called the honeymoon is actually just more abuse – purposeful, deceitful, manipulation by the abuser to prevent the victim from leaving or reporting him to the police, or in any other way making things hard for him. This is why it is much more appropriately referred to as “manipulative kindness” (thanks Luana Trende Nery). It may seem “nice” because the abuser gives gifts, make promises (at least in the early stages of the relationship) or “lets” the victim do something she wants for a change, but these things are just tools of abuse. The abuser has no intention of giving up control or ending the domination & subjugation.
If you want to understand more about the complexities of domestic violence, I highly recommend reading the brilliant book Coercive Control by Evan Stark. He analyses and examines the dynamics of DV in depth, and you will come away with a much more sophisticated, rich understanding. (See video of Prof. Stark talking about coercive control.)
Julie Owens is a survivor of domestic violence who has worked in the field of violence against women and women’s empowerment since 1989. See more about her work at https://www.domesticviolenceexpert.org/