Cycle of violence

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The 4 stages of the cycle of violence

The cycle of violence as developed by Lenore Walker comprises of four stages that may occur in a repetitive cycle over and over again, and which may take varied periods of time to complete in different abusive relationships, ranging from few hours up to even over one year. The four stages in the cycle of violence include:

Tension-Building

The first stage of the cycle of violence is the tension-building stage, which entails the abuser adopting passive and aggressive behaviors towards the victim such as communication withholding that leads to communication breakdown in the relationship (Lenore, 1979). The breakdown in communication builds a strong tension in the relationship and instills fear on the victim, who is constantly facing the fear of angering the partner. The outcome is that the victims try to change behavior towards ways that will not trigger the partner to engage in violent abuse (Coxe & Holmes, 2001).

Incident abuse

The second phase of the cycle of violence is the incident abuse stage, which refers to the actual stage during which the victim is subjected to all manner of abuse that may range from psychological, sexual and physical abuse (Lenore, 1979). During the incident itself, the abuser seeks to dominate the victim through physical acts such as battering, hitting, slapping, kicking, shoving or throwing objects, as well as abusing the victim sexually or emotionally, for example through economic and intimate deprivations, or even through neglect and intimidations (Lenore, 1979).

Reconciliation/Honeymoon

The reconciliation or honeymoon stage refers to the phase following the active incident of abuse, where the abuser starts to be apologetic about harming the victims and develops affectionate and caring behaviors towards the victim (Lenore, 1979). The abuser may also choose to ignore the abuse caused to the victim at this stage, or start blaming the victim for causing the abuse. The abuser will at this stage try to comfort the victim, assuring the victim that such incidences will never occur again, while the abuser projects strong remorse or sadness, as a way of preventing the victim from leaving the relationship (Coxe & Holmes, 2001). In the honeymoon phase, the abusers will be overly kind and generous to the victim, showering them with love, care and gifts (Lenore, 1979).

Calm

The last stage in the cycle of violence is the calm stage, where the abuser seeks to keep the promises made to the victim through trying to continue being kind to the victim and avoiding causing the victim harm (Lenore, 1979). Calm is therefore restored in the relationship during this phase, and the victim is convinced that the abuser has really changed. Nevertheless, after a period of relative calm, tensions build again, and take the relationship back to the initial cycle of violence stage of the relationship (Coxe & Holmes, 2001).

How has the cycle of violence manifested in the King family?

The tension-building stage of the cycle of violence in the King’s family is evident in the incident where “Marty handles the family finances and keeps a tight reign over spending”. The tight reign over spending builds tension between Marty and his wife Amy, who seeks to find a job to address her financial needs and the financial needs of the family, but just as provided under the ‘tension-building’ stage of the cycle of violence, Amy, being the victim, changes her behavior to avoid triggering the partner to engage in violent abuse (Lenore, 1979). The outcome is that even after finding a job; Amy has to leave the employment within a few weeks citing the need to “take care of personal matters.” The tight financial control is the tension-building stage of the cycle of violence in the King’s family, which then sets the stage for the next stage of violence. The tension-building stage of the cycle of violence is also evident in the King’s family at the stage where Amy and the kids are isolated from both family and friends and as such, “family and friends rarely get to see Amy and the kids” and “the only real contact the extended family has with the Kings is during the holidays”. The isolation of the wife and kids from family and friends is a stage where high tension within the family is built, and the family communication largely curtailed.

The incident abuse stage of the cycle of violence occurs in the King’s family at the point where domestic violence occurs. Marty and Amy have has been engaging incidences of domestic violence, out of which Amy has suffered in the home in varying forms. Incident abuse refers to the actual stage during which the victim is subjected to all manner of abuse (Lenore, 1979). The incident abuse stage in the King’s family comprises the actual physical abuse and battering of Amy by Marty, which has caused Amy numerous injuries that include black eyes, bruising, broken arm (spiral fracture), concussion and burns. Additionally, the incident abuse stage of the cycle of violence is also evident in the King’s family, at the point where Aaron is engaged in domestic battering of his with his girlfriend, Kelly. The incident abuse by Aaron against his girlfriend has resulted in Kelly having healing bruises on her face, while their son Josiah has a spiral fracture to his arm. The incident abuse stage in the King’s family has been repeated many times, considering that there “have been no less than 10 domestic violence calls” to the police from the King’s family home.

The reconciliation or honeymoon stage of the cycle of violence within the King’s family is identifiable t the point where “Amy failed to appear in court” after Amy had filed a court order for protection against Marty, following the domestic battery against Amy by Marty in 2010. The reconciliation or honeymoon face of the cycle of violence is one in which the abuser may also choose to ignore the abuse caused to the victim at this stage, or start blaming the victim for causing the abuse (Lenore, 1979). Alternatively, the abuser will at this stage try to comfort the victim, assuring the victim that such incidences will never occur again, while the abuser projects strong remorse or sadness, as a way of preventing the victim from leaving the relationship (Coxe & Holmes, 2001). Therefore, Marty may have blamed Amy for the violence she suffered making her to feel guilty and decide to get back with him, or he may have apologized and assured Amy that the violence is over, thus causing her not to appear in court to proceed with the protection court order process.

The calm stage of the cycle of violence in the King’s family occurs at the point where “a few months later, Amy and the kids moved back into the family home”. Calm stage of the cycle of violence is the phase in which the relationship starts enjoying calmness, and the victim is convinced that the abuser has really changed (Lenore, 1979). Thus, through being convinced that Marty has really changed, Amy and the kids decided to move back into the family home.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Coxe, R. & Holmes, W. (2001).  A study of the cycle of abuse among child molesters. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 10(4), 111-118.
  2. Lenore, W. (1979). The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row.
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