The theory that domestic violence occurs in a cycle was credited to Lenore Walker from the United States who developed it sometime in 1979. This theory recognizes the changing dynamics in a family life with violence. Victims actually identify with the theory because they have experienced the cycle. To the interested or concerned observer, the theory helps them understand why victims find it difficult to leave their violent partners.
The cycle of violence starts with the build-up phase which is marked by escalating tension between the parties. The tension is manifested by verbal, emotional or financial abuse. The violent male partners have a more difficult time in dealing with the conflict because they do not find release for their pent-up emotions.
The second phase is the stand-over phase which is the prelude to the explosion. This is a frightening situation for the family because it is as if they know and are waiting for something terrible that will happen.
An explosion is the peak of violence in the family or domestic relationship. When resorting to violence, the violent partner feels justified and self-righteous. The violent partner feels that he had no other means to release the tension and that the violent acts were a result of the build-up of emotions.
After the acts of violence were committed, the violent partner will enter into the remorse phase. Such person will feel ashamed, repentant and will ask for forgiveness from the victim. The violent partner will try to minimize the gravity of the offence by putting some blame on the victim for what happened.
Even though the violent partner is remorseful, the victim will still be hurt and will even try to leave the relationship or withdraw affection. The violent partner will try to win back the favour of the victim by showing affection, giving presents and making promises to change. This part of the cycle is called the pursuit phase. Some victims will stay or return relying on the promises to change. These victims still hope that the violent partner will change. If the victim does not stay or return the violent partner may start to make threats. So, some victims fear to leave the relationship because of the threats.
Once the pursuit phase is successful, the cycle will then enter the honeymoon phase. This helps prevent the victim from leaving because the intimacy and affection shared after the violence helps them to deny how bad the violence was.