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Break the Cycle
National & Los Angeles Office
5200 W. Century Blvd. Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Break the Cycle
Washington D.C. Office
P.O. Box 21034
Washington, D.C. 20009

About Abuse

The Cycle of Violence

In most abusive relationships violence is not a one time incident. The abuse usually happens again and again. While not all victims experience the same thing, many find that the abuse occurs in a repeating cycle with three phases: tension building, explosion, and honeymoon stages. Each phase can be as short as a few seconds or as long as several years.

Tension Building

Things start to get tense between you and the person you're with. The warning signs of abuse start to appear. Often:

  • You argue a lot.
  • The person you are with yells at you for no reason.
  • He or she makes false accusations against you.
  • You feel like you can't do anything right.
  • You feel tension, like things could blow up at any moment.


The abuser will try to get you to stay by apologizing, trying to make up with you, and trying to shift the blame for the explosion to someone or something else.


All of the tension that has been built up is released in an outburst of violence that can include intense emotional, verbal, sexual and/or physical abuse.

The abuser often:

  • Says "I love you."
  • Apologizes and promises that it will never happen again.
  • Buys you flowers or other gifts.
  • Makes excuses.
  • Says that you did something to cause the abuse or blames it on other things, like being drunk or stressed out.

The abuser may:

  • Physically abuse you by hitting, kicking, slamming you against the wall, etc.
  • Scream and yell in a way that scares or humiliates you.
  • Rape or force you to go further sexually than you want to.
  • Threaten to hurt you.

If your relationship looks like this, you may see the tension start to build again after the honeymoon stage, eventually leading to another explosion. Over time, the honeymoon stage can get shorter and gradually disappear, and the explosions can become more violent and dangerous.