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This page features information about difficulties and barriers women face when trying to leave an abusive relationship. Including information from Harriet's House and the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The cycle of violence is a three stage pattern of abuse that repeats itself in most physically abusive relationships. It frequently begins with:

TENSION: Verbal abuse an minor battering which escalates into

VIOLENT EPISODE: The occurrence of battering, verbal abuse, pshychological abuse, sexual abuse, or other physical abuse, followed by

HONEYMOON STAGE: The batterer is sorry, apologizes for his or her behavior and makes promises that it will never happen again.

The more times the cycle is completed, the less time it takes to complete. As the cycle is repeated, the violence usually escalates in frequency and severity.

Not all victims of domestic violence will experience the cycle of violence. If you are being emotionally abused, then you may not experience all three stages. This does not mean that you are not in an abusive relationship. It does mean that the emotional abuse may eventually become physical.

A battered woman may believe:

  • The violence is temporary.
  • With loyalty and love, the abusive partner can change.
  • Promises that it will "never happen again".
  • A feeling of obligation and responsibility to keep the family together.
    • Victims of domestic violence sometimes attempt to deny or minimize the violence. She may believe her abuser when he tells her that his abuse is "her fault."

      Many want the violence to end but not necessarily the relationship.

      Many people believe their abuser's threats and fear more violence if they attempt to leave the relationship. She may fear:

      • More severe abuse.
      • Retaliation if he finds her.
      • Destruction of her belongings or home.
      • Harm to her job or reputation.
      • Stalking.
      • Charging her with a crime.
      • Harming children, pets, family or friends.
      • Court or police involvement.
      At times, women may leave the relationship. She may return when he begs her to come back, or when she can not find the resources to live on her own. She may return because she loves him.

      The average battered woman leaves 7 to 8 times before permanently leaving a relationship. Many times she is caught in the Cycle of Violence.

      There are many other reasons women stay in relationships. Some include:


      • Few job skills.
      • Limited education or work experience.
      • Limited cash.
      • No access to bank account.
      • Fear of poverty.
      Pressure from community of faith/family.
      • Family expectation to stay in marriage "at any cost".
      • Family denial of the violence.
      • Family blame her for the violence.
      • Religion may disapprove of divorce.
      • Religious leader may tell her to "stay and pray".
      Guilt/self doubt
      • Guilt about failure of the relationship.
      • Feelings of personal incompetence.
      • Concern about independence.
      • Loneliness.
      Concern for Children
      • Abuser may charge her with 'kidnapping' or sue for custody.
      • Abuser may abduct or abuse the children.
      • Questions whether she can care for and support children on her own.
      • Fears losing custody of her children.
      • Believes children need a father.

      Lack of community support

      • Unaware of services available to battered women.
      • Lack of adequate child care.
      • Few jobs.
      • Negative experiences with service providers.
      • Lack of affordable housing.
      • Isolated from community services.
      • No support from family and friends.
      Many women in abusive relationships ask these questions:

      Will it get better?
      Studies show that over time, without intervention, abuse in the home gets more frequent and more violent.

      Is it my fault?
      No. Abuse is always wrong. In fact, abuse in the home is a crime. In Alabama, domestic violence has been made a separate crime under the criminal code. The victim is never to blame. There is no excuse for domestic violence.

      Can I fix it?
      No. Only the abuser can stop his violent behavior. Qualified batterer intervention programs may provide knowledge and skills to stop his violent behavior, but only the abuser can decide whether he will use them or not.

      Will Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous keep him from hitting me?
      No. While your partner may need treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, the abusive behavior can continue even if he becomes sober or stops abusing drugs. It is recommended that an abuser get treated for his violence in a specialized intervention program, as well as for drug and alcohol abuse through substance abuse programs.

      What can I do?
      Take care of yourself by asking for help. Call Harriet's House at (334) 289-8988, or Alabama's domestic violence crisis line at 1-800-650-6522 for information on how to be safe. You will be put in touch with the domestic violence shelter program nearest you. Remember:

      No one deserves to be abused.


    • I am not to blame for being beaten and abused.
    • I am not the cause of another person's violent behavior.
    • I do not like or want abuse.
    • I deserve to be treated with respect.
    • I don't want my children to grow up to batter or be battered.
    • I deserve a safe and happy life.
    • I am not alone. I can ask others to help me.
    • I have options.

      From the Support Network for Battered Women

    • Relationship Rights
      The right to:
    • goodwill from your partner.
    • emotional support.
    • be heard by your partner and to be responded to with courtesy.
    • have your feelings and experiences acknowledged as real and valid.
    • clear and informative answers to questions that concern you.
    • live free from criticism and judgment.
    • live free from accusation and blame.
    • encouragement.
    • live free from emotional and physical threat.
    • be respectfully asked, rather than "ordered".
    • live free from angry outbursts and rage.
      From: Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc. (ACT)