In 1979, psychologist Lenore Walker found that many violent relationships follow a common pattern or cycle. The entire cycle may happen in one day or it may take weeks or months. It is different for every relationship and some relationships may not follow the cycle at all

Tension Building

  • Abuser starts to get edgy
  • There is a breakdown of communication
  • Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm
  • Tension becomes too much
  • Victim feels like they are 'walking on egg shells'
  • In non-violent relationships these issues can normally be resolved between the people in the relationship.

Violence Phase

  • This is the peak of violence in the relationship
  • It is the height of abuse by the person who uses violence to control and have power over others
  • The perpetrator experiences a release of tension during an explosion phase, which may become addictive
  • They may be unable to deal with their anger any other way
  • After the abuse, the abuser may;
    • promise it will never happen again;
    • blame the victim for causing the abuse;
    • deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims


  • Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
  • The perpetrator may purchase gifts, and give the person affected attention
  • The perpetrator may go through a dramatic personality change
  • Promises made during 'making-up' may be met
  • Victim may hope that the abuse is over
  • Both people do not want the relationship to end, so are happy to ignore the possibility that the violence could occur again
  • After some time, this stage will fade and the cycle may begin again