The Cycle of Abuse

The abuser rarely sticks to one tactic, because you learn to deal with it, or get fed up with it, or begin to stand up to it – so s/he changes tactics over time, variously bullying, belittling you, and begging you in turn. This leads to a cycle of different behaviours, leaving you confused, and never quite sure where you stand. You might be intimidated by your abuser’s bullying, but think it’s just a phase, because s/he is lovely sometimes.

It’s this cyclical nature of the abuser’s behaviour that holds you in the relationship (whether it’s with a partner, family member, or “friend”): you know s/he can be nice at times (when you’re doing what the abuser wants), so you believe everything could be okay if you just try hard enough.

Each stage in the cycle can last anything from minutes to months.


(This infographic is based on a handout provided by the Freedom Programme, a series of workshops on domestic abuse devised by Pat Craven.)

Please DON’T challenge an abuser, or try to leave a relationship, without getting help first.
There are organisations that can help you work out what to do, and help to keep you (and your children) safe from further physical and/or psychological harm. If you are in the UK, please see the Where to Get Help page for more information. If you are outside the UK, Google your country’s abuse charities – there will be people to help you.

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