Domestic violence is rarely a one-time occurrence. It usually takes place as part of a cycle that includes the following phases:

Tension-building stage:
Insults and other verbal attacks; minor abusive situations; victim tries to be compliant, “walks on eggshells,” and feels helpless; atmosphere becomes increasingly more tense.

Violent episode:
Built-up tensions erupt into incidents ranging from severe verbal/emotional abuse to physical/sexual assault and can last from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the relationship. It is during this time that a woman is most likely to be seriously injured or killed by her partner.

Honeymoon stage:
Following a violent episode the abuser is usually contrite and attentive; the victim once again recognizes the person she first fell in love with and may be inclined to believe his promises to change.

Domestic violence rarely stops without some form of intervention. The cycle usually repeats itself with the violent episodes escalating in frequency and intensity.