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Abusive Behaviours and The Cycle of Abuse.


Abuse isn’t always easy to recognise. Many victim of abuse are confused and have been conditioned to believe that the abuse is normal behaviour.

Some abuse is subtle (discounting or belittling) and some abuse is overt and quite obviously abuse (hitting, punching or locking you in a room). Abuse does not have to be physical to be recognised as abuse,  all form of abuse are damaging, frightening and confusing for the victim.

Here is a checklist of abusive behaviours.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as each relationship is different, but it gives an idea of the most common behaviours of abusers. If you think you’re in an abusive relationship please get help as soon as possible. There is a list of helpful organisations on the resources page.

Verbal Abuse

  • Ignore your feelings
  • Disrespect you
  • Ridicule or insult you then tell you its a joke, or that you have no sense of humour
  • Ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class
  • Withhold approval, appreciation or affection
  • Give you the silent treatment
  • Walk away without answering you
  • Criticise you, call you names, shout or swear at you
  • Humiliate you privately or in public
  • Roll his or her eyes when you talk
  • Give you a hard time about socialising with your friends or family
  • Make you socialise (and keep up appearances) even when you don’t feel up to it
  • Seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won’t get
  • Tells you you are too sensitive
  • Is hurtful, especially when you are down or need support
  • Seem energised by fighting, while fighting exhausts you
  • Have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason
  • Present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders
  • Twist your words, somehow turning what you said against you
  • Try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes
  • Complain about how badly you treat him
  • Threaten to leave or threaten to throw you out
  • Say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad
  • Leave you stranded
  • Threaten to hurt you or your family
  • Hit or push you, even “accidentally”
  • Seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other
  • Abuse something you love: a pet, a child, an object
  • Compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticise you enough to keep you insecure
  • Promise to never do something hurtful again
  • Harass you about imagined affairs
  • Manipulate you with lies and contradictions
  • Destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, break appliances
  • Drive dangerously and not slow down when you ask him to
  • behave immaturely and selfishly, yet accuse you of these behaviours
  • Question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence
  • Interrupt you; hear but not really listen
  • Make you feel like you can’t win, whatever you do is never right
  • Use drugs and/or alcohol.
  • provoke you to rage, which is “proof” that you are to blame
  • Try to convince you he or she is “right,” while you are “wrong”
  • Frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding
  • Treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel

Emotional Abuse

  • Frequently blames or criticises you
  • Calls you names
  • Ridicules your beliefs, religion, race or class
  • Blames you for “causing” the abuse
  • Ridicules/makes bad remarks about your gender
  • Criticises or threatens to hurt your family or friends
  • Isolates you from your family and friends
  • Abuses pets
  • Tries to keep you from doing something you wanted to do
  • Is angry if you pay too much attention to someone or something else (children, friends, school, etc.)
  • Withholds approval, appreciation or affection
  • Humiliates you
  • Becomes angry if meals or housework are not done to his liking
  • Makes contradictory demands
  • Does not include you in important decisions
  • Does not allow you to sleep
  • Repeatedly harasses/criticises you about things you did in the past
  • Takes away car keys, money or credit cards
  • Threatens to leave or tells you to leave.
  • Checks up on you (listens to your phone calls, reads your messages or emails, checks the mileage on the car, etc.)
  • Tells people you suffer from a mental illness
  • Threatens to commit suicide
  • Interferes with your work or school (provokes a fight in the morning, calls to harass you at work, etc.)
  • Minimises or denies being abusive
  • Abuses your children
  • Breaks dates and cancels plans without reason
  • Uses drugs or alcohol to excuse their behaviour
  • Uses phrases like “I’ll show you who is boss” or “I’ll put you in line”
  • Uses loud or intimidating tone of voice
  • Comes home late refuse to tell you why

Financial Abuse

  • Makes all the decisions about money
  • Takes care of all financial matters without your input
  • Criticises the way or amounts of money you spend
  • Places you on a budget that is unrealistic
  • Prohibits your access to bank accounts and credit cards
  • Refuses to put your name on joint assets
  • Controls your wages
  • Refuses you access to money
  • Refuses to let you work, or makes it difficult for you to work
  • Refuses to get a job
  • Refuses to pay bills
  • Causes you to lose your job

Sexual Abuse

  • Pressures you to have sex
  • Pressures you to perform sexual acts that make you uncomfortable or hurt you
  • Directs physical injury toward sexual areas of your body
  • Puts you at risk for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Withholds sex or affection
  • Calls you sexual names (“whore”, “bitch”, etc.)
  • Tells anti-woman jokes or demeans women verbally/attacks your femininity
  • Accuses you of having or wanting sex with others
  • Forces you to have sex with others
  • Forces you to view pornography
  • Pressures you to dress in a certain way
  • Disregards your sexual needs and feelings about sex
  • Accuses you of being gay or frigid if you refused sex
  • Spreads rumours about your sexual behaviours
  • Forces you or refuses to let you use birth control
  • Makes unwanted public sexual advances
  • Makes remarks about your sexual abilities in private or in front of others
  • Rapes and sexually assaults you

Using Children

  • Makes you feel guilty about your children
  • Uses children to relay negative messages
  • Uses children to report on your activities
  • Uses access arrangements to harass you
  • Threatens to take custody of your children
  • Threatens to kidnap your children
  • Tells others you’re a bad mother
  • Threatens to report you to social services
  • Plays the children off against one another
  • Alienates you, or attempts to alienate you from your child

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes, grabs or shoves you
  • Slaps you
  • Spits at you
  • Punches you
  • Kicks you
  • Chokes you
  • Pinches you
  • Pulls your hair
  • Burns you
  • Bites you
  • Ties you up
  • Threatens you with a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Uses a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Prevents you from leaving an area/physically restrains you
  • Throws objects
  • Destroys property or your possessions
  • Drives recklessly to frighten you
  • Disregards your needs when you are ill, injured or pregnant
  • Abuses you while you are pregnant
  • Forces you to abort a pregnancy

Some of these examples are from the point of view of a woman being abused by a man, however, we do know that abuse happens in all types relationships. Abuse is unacceptable regardless of who the perpetrator or the victim is.

Abusive behaviours alone are not enough to help you to recognise domestic abuse. All abuse follows a common pattern, known as “The Cycle of Abuse”.

There are three distinct phases in the cycle of abuse which go round and around.

The Honeymoon Phase:

Things are calm, the abuser is kind, thoughtful, sweet and good to you. He says you’re special, you mean the world to him. He is often apologetic about previous abuse, he is ashamed, he doesn’t want to lose you. You’re the best thing that ever happened to him. He may shower you with gifts or surprises, take care of the jobs he wouldn’t normally do around the home, treats you like a princess. Praises you, supports you, loves you in the way that you have always wanted and needed to be loved. He is focussed only on you. He is gentle with you. He says he doesn’t deserve someone as wonderful and kind and forgiving as you. He says he will never hurt you again.

The Tension Phase:

Things start to irritate him. He snaps at you over little things. He becomes more introvert, less focussed on you and more focussed on what you’re doing wrong. This isn’t right, that isn’t right, but yesterday, you explain, it was fine!

“Well today it isn’t, today you’re wrong, today you’re too stupid to remember what happened yesterday, are you deliberately trying to wind me up?” The tension builds, and you can feel it. You dare not ask if he is ok, he will only tell you he is, but you know full well he isn’t. You backtrack, try to work out what happened between the honeymoon bliss and now, but you can’t, because YOU didn’t do anything, this is going on in his mind, this is of his creation. You don’t know this though, so you try to put it all right again, you tell him you love him, you make meals, suggest good times… he tells you to stop smothering him. he’s fine, at least he would be if you’d just shut up and leave him alone. The tension builds, higher and higher, there is nothing you can do to stop it, it is like an avalanche, you know its coming, you can see it rolling down the mountain, you can’t stop it and you can’t get out of the way.  The tension phase turns into:

The Explosive Phase:

The abuse escalates quickly and uncontrollably, he shouts, screams, swears, criticises, belittles, demeans you with no remorse. Your crying means nothing to him, you need to learn to be told, to be disciplined. He says he warned you, but you don’t listen, you NEVER listen. what is wrong with you? You’re mad, thats what it is. No wonder he is so stressed out with you, you’re mental. He tries to be reasonable with you but, no, you can’t be reasonable, you don’t know HOW to be reasonable. Its a wonder anyone likes you, you should be grateful that he sticks around for you, no one else would bother.

He explodes, the tension, his tension, is released, either by verbally, emotionally or sexually demeaning you or he hits you or, more likely, a combination of some or all. Each method leaves scars that do not fade. Each as bad as the next. Each as abusive as one another. It is a torrent of abuse raining down on you relentlessly, it pushes you down, theres no let up. If you try to fight, he just pushes harder, he will be done when he is done, not before. And he will be done when he feels you have received adequate punishment. All you can do is survive it, get through it as best you can.

His tension is released, he feels better, perhaps invigorated, perhaps regretful now. You are hurt, so very hurt, you feel broken… and he says he’s sorry, he says he didn’t mean to hurt you again, he says he doesn’t now why he does that… he says he will make it up yo you… and so we swing back up to the honeymoon period again, and the cycle begins over.



Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships, though abusers are often men and victims are often women, we know very well that this is not always the case.

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.


A network committed to speaking out about domestic abuse and offering support. Many small voices can make one big voice.

6 thoughts on “Abusive Behaviours and The Cycle of Abuse.

  1. Reblogged this on WELL CALL ME CRAZY and commented:
    We MUST continue to educate everyone on the impact of domestic abuse, the warning signs of abuse, and the resources available to help victims. This is one small effort I make to help that goal be achieved. If you do not currently follow or read the blog that this post originated from, I highly recommend you check it out! It contains great stuff written by great people trying to make a great difference!

  2. Thank you for posting it. I didn’t realize how many types of abuse there all and i think i have suffered them all in my life but not recognized it. Thanks again. Love to you xxx

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