What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is when one individual within a relationship – whether a spouse, child, parent or any other kind of relationship – attempts to have power over the other. This power is gained by establishing high levels of control over an individual and using a variety of damaging behaviors to maintain that power and control. These behaviors may include:

  • Physical abuse and intimidation

  • Psychological abuse

  • Emotional abuse and manipulation

  • Sexual abuse and aggression

If one or more of these behaviors are present within a relationship, it’s likely the person undergoing this abuse is a victim of domestic violence. There are no demographics for abuse; it can affect anyone, from any education level, race or age. Domestic abuse occurs around the world, and being educated and aware of what domestic abuse consists of is a vital part of identifying and preventing domestic violence from occurring.

The Cycle of Abuse

The classic definition of domestic abuse uses the ‘Cycle of Abuse’ as a model to help make the public aware of how domestic violence occurs. Often, it’s assumed that abuse occurs at random, or cannot be prevented.

At The Bella Foundation, we know this is far from the truth. Understanding the causes behind, and the cycle of, domestic violence allows us to offer better support and improved awareness for potentially life-threatening situations. The Cycle of Abuse is as follows:

Stage 1: The Build Up

During this stage, the abuser is likely to become more critical or argumentative with the victim. Tension as a result of condemning the individual’s actions, starting fights and changes in temperament are standard in this phase and are often the first warning of further abuse on the horizon. As the behavior of the abuser becomes more erratic and unpredictable, it’s likely they’re moving onto phase two.

Stage 2: The Explosion

The stage traditionally associated with domestic violence, during the ‘explosion’ phase, the abuser becomes actively aggressive in many different ways. This could include physical altercations such as hitting and slapping, or even more volatile behavior such as choking or the use of weapons, in addition to sexual or verbal abuse. Following this outburst, especially with more violent acts, the abuser may begin to calm and enter stage 3.

Stage 3: The Aftermath

Usually known as the calm following the storm or honeymoon phase, this phase is where an abuser attempts to make amends for their behavior. This may include apologies, promises, and excuses to prevent the victim from leaving or distancing themselves from the relationship. Many of the actions in this phase are designed to elicit sympathy and understanding. However, in a typical cycle of abuse, the abuser will soon return to stage 1.

Often, it’s easy from outside an abusive relationship to consider the actions of the abuser as out of character, or completely unexpected. But in nearly every domestic abuse case, there’s a definite cycle visible over time that needs to be broken to support and free the victim – or victims – from their abuser.

This is the case in every type of domestic violence, whether it’s between romantic partners, parents and their children or other close relationships of all kinds.