A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


What is the Cycle of Abuse

The cycle of abuse is cyclical; it has been proven time and time again. When something is characterized as being cyclical, it means that it occurs in a repeating pattern. Abuse is identifiable as being cyclical in two ways; it is both generational and episodic. Generational cycles of abuse are passed down, by example and exposure, from parents to children. Episodic abuse occurs in a repeating pattern within the context of at least two individuals within a family system. It may involve spousal abuse, child abuse, or even elder abuse.

A son, who is repeatedly either verbally or physically abused by his father, will predictably treat his own children in the same way. When a daughter hears her mother frequently tear down, belittle, and criticize her father, she will adapt a learned behavior which involves control through verbal abuse. Similarly, a child who witnesses his parents engaging in abusive behaviors toward one another, will very likely subject his or her spouse to the same abusive patterns. These are examples of generational abuse:

The episodic cycle of abuse is characterized by distinct periods of behavior that eventually result in an extreme episode of verbal and/or physical abuse. Typically, victims of abuse live in denial of this reoccurring pattern.
The cycle of episodic abuse begins with a major abusive behavior such as loud verbal abuse, screaming and/or verbal harassment and even a threat of physical assault. 

A period of remorse follows. The abusive individual will go to great lengths to seek forgiveness and offer assurances that the abusive behavior will never occur again. The abusive spouse may bring flowers or expensive gifts. “Oh honey, you know that I would never hurt you. I am so sorry. You know how much I need you."  One of my clients has recently gone back to an ex who abused her terribly. She says that he is treating her so good right now, and she believes she has it all under control.  Does she really? 

The third portion of the cycle is characterized by a period of "normalcy." During this time frame the abusive spouse may appear to be truly living out his or her repentance. Great effort will be expended to please and lull the victim of abuse into believing that the worst is now over. 
Over time, tension will begin to replace the easy atmosphere in the home. Irritability will increase, followed by veiled accusations by the abuser, blaming the other spouse for his or her frustration and unhappiness. Eventually, this escalating behavior will give way to another episode of full-blown verbal and/or physical abuse.

Remember, the  cycle of abuse is rarely broken without outside help. Victims need to learn how to set boundaries that protect them and help them to break free of the cycle of victimization. Abusers must confront and take responsibility for the verbal and physical abusive patterns of behavior. I have run groups for both victims and batterers and sadly, most of the batterers do NOT take responsibility for their actions.  It is always HER fault. Both victim and abuser need to consider professional counseling as a means to stop the cycle of abuse. Individuals who are living in environments characterized by a cyclical form of abuse should make personal safety a matter of urgent priority. Verbal abuse can quickly escalate into a related, but more deadly form of abuse, physical violence.

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