Navigate Up
Sign In
Lake County State's Attorney  

Cycle of Violence

Phase 1: Tension Building

This phase is composed of many minor incidents of abuse, including jealousy, tantrums, controlling behaviors, verbal abuse, threats of violence, etc., that gradually increase in severity.

 This phase is characterized by the abused partner behaving in ways to avoid conflict and confrontation. Nevertheless, the tension builds and builds until it becomes unbearable and all control by the abuser is lost.

Quite often, the event that triggers the second phase, a violent incident, is a power struggle. The abuser issues an ultimatum that cannot be met by the victim, and rather than losing face, he reacts violently and explosively. At other times, the event that triggers the violence will be seemingly insignificant or an easily resolvable problem or issue such as dinner being late or a spot on his clothes

Phase 2: Violent Incident

This phase is characterized by explosive and uncontrollable rage. The lack of control and the element of overkill distinguish this phase from the minor incidents of Phase 1. Although he may start out by justifying his behavior to himself, the batterer ends up in a blind rage. His original intent is usually to teach the victim a lesson and emphasize his power, but often he winds up seriously and severely beating her.

Phase 2 is a brief period and it is impossible to predict the type of violence, when and where it will occur, or its severity. The attack is followed by shock, denial and disbelief. Batterers will rationalize the seriousness of the incident and will minimize it effects.

Phase 3: Honeymoon Stage

This phase is characterized as calm with the batterer exhibiting kind, loving behavior towards his partner. He knows he has overreacted; he is very sorry; and, he wishes to redeem himself. Since the tension is gone, he asks for forgiveness. Although he honestly believes he will not do it again, his reason is that she has "learned her lesson" so there will be no more need to exert his power. All his actions are for reconciliation and he will extend his efforts at this time, if necessary, to involve himself in therapy; although it is possible he will drop out of therapy when Phase 1 resumes. This is the stage where the batterer will do anything necessary to keep the relationship and to be happy together again. Often the abused partner feels relief and hope that the violence is behind them.

At the completion of Phase 3, Phase 1 begins over again, and the cycle continues; tension-- beating-- remorse, over and over and over.


There is a way out. Since violence is a learned behavior, it can be unlearned. Counseling can teach the batterer appropriate responses to anger and frustration. Treatment can make possible a peaceful and loving family life for the batterer as well as for the abused woman and the children.

Contact Information
State's Attorney's Office
18 N. County St.
4th Floor
Waukegan, IL 60085
Related Links
 What is domestic abuse?
 Are you or someone you love a victim?
 How to keep safe
 Cycle of violence
 What is equality?
 Power v. Equity wheels
 Why women stay
 Characteristics of an offender