"How did I not see it?" : the cycle of violence
Reading time : 8 min
It is very difficult for a victim to see clearly into a situation of intimate partner violence (IPV), since its dynamic is very unstable. Sometimes things are going well, sometimes less so but without a clear reason as to why... and other times it is hell. This instability is explained by the cycle of violence. This cycle is often described in three phases: crisis/aggression, remission and tension. Violence is present in all phases, but it takes on different forms.
Sometimes it was fine, really good even. He became the person that I loved... and that I missed. It's not easy, the ups and downs. I was constantly catapulted from drama to tenderness, from panic to relief, from disillusionment to hope...
The crisis phase, or aggression, occurs when the victim tries to exercise power over a decision that affects the family or her own life, and the abuser uses violence to «win» and impose their will. No matter what form the violence takes (psychological, verbal, physical, sexual, etc.), it has great repercussions on the victim: fear, pain, doubt, confusion, etc. The victim doesn't understand why her partner reacted so harshly, why he went so far and how the situation got so out of hand. The victim feels helpless, because their efforts to appease their partner do not work. The victim may also react with violence to defend herself or to try to regain her legitimate power over the situation. After the crisis, the victim is destabilized and may question their partner's violence or the relationship.
To prevent the victim from leaving the relationship, the abuser must do something to influence their perception of the situation and give them hope for the future. The abuser may thus recognize certain wrongs, promise to improve and may even apologize and express remorse. However, they do so in a way that minimizes the severity of the violence. At the same time, the abuser may show affection for the victim, «take care of them» and be on their best behaviour. The victim's suffering subsides, they regain hope and are immensely relieved that their partner did not want to hurt them on purpose. However, the abuser also challenges the victim's perception of the crisis, to give them a share of responsibility. The abuser twists the events and explains why the crisis happened in a way that blames the victim. The abuser convinces the victim to «be more careful». This part of the remission gives the victim a false sense of power over the situation, because they «understand» why the crisis happened and «know» what to do (or what not to do) in order to make things better in the future. The feeling of helplessness and confusion that the victim felt during the crisis are easing. The victim feels much better and perhaps even proud of how they were able to «overcome» such an event together.
After a while, the remission fades and the abuser uses subtle violence to reassert their power over the relationship (sighs, irritated looks, silences, veiled reproaches, disapproval...). The tension mounts but the victim has difficulty putting it into words. The victim feels anxious and apprehensive and redoubles their efforts to keep the peace. The victim adapts to the situation without realizing that they are losing more and more power... until the day they try to exercise power over a decision that affects the family or their own life... and a new crisis begins.
Bien que la violence conjugale touche majoritairement des femmes, elle peut aussi toucher les hommes et les personnes issues de la diversité sexuelle et de genre. Les services de SOS violence conjugale sont offerts à toutes les personnes touchées par la problématique.