Man with Clenched Fist and Crying Woman

The Stages of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence occurs more commonly than many think, and the emotional and physical effects can be life-changing. Becoming familiar with the different forms of abuse and stages of escalation in domestic violence is a necessity. If you or a loved one are involved in an abusive relationship, utilizing available resources and knowing the court system are the first steps to finding safety.

What Is Domestic Violence?

According to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other. Domestic violence can appear in many forms within an intimate relationship:

  • Physical: Abuse is considered physical when violent behavior such as hitting, slapping, or cutting is inflicted on the targeted individual. There are many forms of physical abuse and can even include denying medical treatment or forcing drug/alcohol use.
  • Sexual: The abuser will coerce the targeted individual into having sexual contact or partake in sexual behavior without consent. Sexual abuse can include marital rape, attack of sexual body parts, and more.
  • Emotional: A targeted individual’s self-worth or self-esteem is targeted with emotional abuse. This form of abuse can appear in many ways, from name-calling and criticism to injuring meaningful relationships.
  • Economic: If an abuser makes or intends to make a targeted individual financially reliant, economic abuse is occurring. Abusers will commonly take control over financial resources, withhold funds, and not allow the targeted individual to work or attend school.
  • Psychological: At times, abusers choose to frighten the targeted individual through intimidation tactics. Psychological abuse can include threatening to hurt oneself or other individuals, injuring pets, and even isolating the targeted individual from family and friends.
  • Stalking: Another intimidation tactic can include stalking. A targeted individual may be stalked by their abuser to instill constant fear. Stalking can consist of many actions, from following and harassing to unwarranted visits and repeated phone calls.
  • Cyberstalking: Similar to physical stalking, abusers may partake in cyberstalking as well. Cyberstalking refers to when an abuser takes to social media, repeated emailing, or other online actions to cause the targeted individual to experience emotional distress.

Emotional Signs

Being involved in an abusive relationship can cause unfamiliar emotions and behaviors that may be out of character. The feelings and actions a victim suffering from domestic violence may experience or partake in include, but are not limited to:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Constant state of alertness
  • Lack of relaxation and sleep
  • Belief of responsibility for the abuser’s actions
  • Hopelessness
  • Fear
  • Inability to protect oneself or loved ones
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Belief that abuse is deserved
  • Flashbacks
  • Triggers

Physical Signs

Due to the constant stress and tension of being involved in an abusive relationship, many domestic violence victims experience physical symptoms that aren’t associated with physical abuse. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Genital soreness
  • Chronic pain
  • Back pain
  • Restless or inability to sleep
  • Pelvic pain


The Cycle of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can appear in various ways, but the cycle remains the same. It is defined by the actions an abusive partner utilizes to keep a targeted individual in a relationship. The behaviors include both subtle actions and physical, visible violence.

1. Tension Building

The first stage of domestic violence can last a matter of minutes or weeks. Over the tension building phase, stress evolves, and the abuser tends to feel wronged, ignored, or neglected. It’s likely that the abuser will yell, demand, and often have unrealistic expectations. The targeted individual often feels as though they’re walking on eggshells around the abuser and are afraid of upsetting, thus resulting in extreme anxiety. It’s expected that the targeted individual is so nervous about making the abuser angry that they opt to stay quiet or do nothing at all. Regardless of their decision or actions, the abuser makes the targeted individual feel that nothing they do is right. In the tension building phase of domestic violence, a small incident can become a significant issue when least expected.

2. Abusive Incident

The second stage of domestic violence occurs when the targeted individual does or says something that causes the abuser to feel upset or threatened. This causes the abuser to seek domination through verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Targeted individuals will likely keep the incident a secret and not inform surrounding individuals of the occurrence. Depending on the severity of the abusive incident, a targeted individual can end up in the hospital. Instead of informing the medical personnel, the targeted individual will lie about the cause of their injuries out of fear.

3. Reconciliation

The third stage of domestic violence occurs when the abuser begins feeling remorseful or fearing of the actions that took place. It’s expected that the abuser will attempt to initiate reconciliation with the targeted individual. A reconciliation can appear in many forms, such as buying flowers, gifts, a fancy dinner, or even an exciting vacation. The abuser will usually promise that abuse will not occur again and that they did not want to do what they did. Their reasoning for the behavior is that the targeted individual made the abuser act as they did due to lack of understanding, wrong behavior, or not listening. The targeted individual often experiences pain, humiliation, disrespect, and fear during the reconciliation phase. Individuals battling domestic violence often feel they have to stay in the relationship because of financial dependency or children being involved.

4. Honeymoon

The fourth stage of domestic violence is calm before the next storm. The abuser will be kind, calm, interested, and may even partake in counseling. The abuser will commonly ask the targeted individual for forgiveness, which is usually believed by the targeted individual. The honeymoon stage can range in time length, and the targeted individual believes the abuser has changed, thus accepting the apology. Over time, the abuser will begin nitpicking on little flaws or behaviors, and apologies will become less sincere as time passes. Actions slowly start to return, and the cycle will once again return to the tension building phase.

The Bottom Line

In many cases, an abuser rarely changes, meaning the only way for a targeted individual to end abuse is to end the relationship. One of the most dangerous times of an abusive relationship is when the targeted individual attempts to leave. Once the abuser learns that the targeted individual is attempting to leave the relationship, abusive tendencies can skyrocket, resulting in severe injury or even death. Individuals involved in an intimate relationship must become familiar with the signs and stages of domestic violence, so if you ever find yourself or a loved one in an abusive situation, you know how to navigate the situation.

Contact an Experienced Minneapolis Domestic Violence Attorney

If you need help in a domestic violence case, contact attorney Lauren Campoli. Coming out of an abusive relationship or a violent home can be emotionally taxing and extremely challenging. To gain the protection you deserve, legal expertise is needed. You can trust Lauren Campoli to fight for a safe future for you and your family. Call the Law Office of Lauren Campoli at (612)-810-0060 or complete our online form now to discuss the next steps.