As highlighted during the end of our last post, an abusive relationship is usually characterized by a pattern of behavior that includes more than just physical violence. It is a pattern of threatening and intimidating behavior used to gain control over a partner. It can include all of the harmful behaviors we mentioned during the last post. We call this pattern of behavior the Cycle of Violence. During the Cycle of Violence abusive partners will pair abusive behavior with nice behavior in order to control the way their partner thinks, acts, and/or feels.
Oftentimes, an offense that may seem minor at first glance (i.e. constant calls and/or texts, put downs, arguments) is ignored or minimized by a person experiencing abuse. Over time, these offenses can slowly break down one’s self-esteem. These offenses will often escalate and happen repeatedly and more often within abusive relationships.
The Cycle of Violence has three primary stages:
1) Build Up, 2) Blow Up, 3) Make Up.
Build-Up: Tension mounts. Person experiencing violence is compliant, may accept blame for/cover up abusive partner’s behavior, and compromises to keep the abusive partner non-violent. Abusive partner is becoming increasingly jealous and verbally or physically abusive.
Blow-Up: An acute incident occurs. Abusive partner is out of control. Sometimes a person experiencing violence might provoke this incident on purpose because they no longer can tolerate the anxiety, terror or anger of the “Build-Up” and wants to get the incident over with.
Make-Up: The re-engagement phase, when the person experiencing violence gets “hooked” back into the relationship because the abuser acts really sweet and does things like bringing flowers and gifts to their partner.
Why is the final phase “Make-Up” instead of “Break-Up?
The abusive partner will use a variety of means to convince victim to stay, such as telling the victim, ‘You’re my only friend’; only you understand me,’ giving gifts, saying ‘Don’t give up on me,’ behaving as if what occurred is only a minor incident, promising to get better, etc. The abusive partner can be really scared at this point that their partner will leave them. It is also important to remember the themes discussed during our blog post on Power.
If the person experiencing abuse is also experiencing oppression from one or more of the -isms we spoke of, it may be harder for them to leave and/or access services within the community. This is why along with raising awareness about teen dating violence, Peers Building Justice (PBJ) works to dismantle all forms of oppression through arts-based initiatives.
The benefits and disadvantages faced by certain groups can show up in relationships and help to reinforce the power differences between people. When we are aware of these systemic forces, we can best understand how to help others and ourselves to make sure abuse and violence are not perpetuated in our community or intimate relationships. We can also understand the complex situations people are in when they try to access services from organizations/institutions that believe in and reinforce those -isms we just spoke about.
Abusive relationships become painful and sometimes dangerous before anyone seeks help. However, it does not have to be this way. During tomorrow’s blog post we will discuss Red Flags. These are warning signs found within abusive relationships that show when changes need to be made before things get dangerous.
If at any point you have questions and/or need to speak to someone about your relationship, please call either the SPAN (303) 444-2424 or MESA (303) 443-7300 hotlines. MESA and SPAN have specially trained counselors who are available 24/7/365. The hotlines are free, and they also have Spanish-speaking counselors.
You don’t need to be in crisis to call the phone numbers. You can call anytime, even if just to say, ‘I saw something happen between two friends of mine and I didn’t know what to think,’ or ‘I’m just looking for some information.’
Anyone can call these numbers. You can call about a friend, a family member, or about yourself. The call is totally confidential and you don’t need to give the counselor personal information about yourself such as your name and phone number. You can use a fake name or no name if you want.