Although domestic violence has many faces and specificities, the American psychologist Leonor Walker has identified that aggressions committed in a marital context occur within a cycle that is constantly repeated.
When the victim is silent in the face of violence, the aggressor does not feel responsible for his actions – not to mention the fact that society already reinforces a man's "right" to discipline and subjugate a woman, even by the use of physical force.
Over time, the intervals between one stage and another become shorter, just as the aggressions happen without following the order of the stages. In some cases there is femicide, which is the murder of the victim.
We must break this cycle. And the Maria da Penha Law is on the women’s side.
At first, the aggressor gets nervous and irritated because of insignificant things; he may even have anger fits. He also humiliates the victim, makes threats and destroys objects.
The woman tries to calm the aggressor, is distressed and avoids any conduct that can "provoke" him. There are many feelings involved: sadness, anguish, anxiety, fear and disappointment, just to name a few of them.
In general, the victim tends to deny that it is happening to her, hides the facts from other people, and often thinks that she has done something wrong to justify the aggressor's violent behavior or that "he had a bad day at work", for example. This tension can last for days or years, but as it progressively increases, the situation will very likely lead to Stage 2.
This stage corresponds to the explosion of the aggressor, that is, the lack of control reaches the limit and leads to the violent act. Here all the tension accumulated in Stage 1 is materialized in verbal, physical, psychological, moral or economic violence.
Even though the victim is aware that the aggressor is out of control and has a great destructive power in relation to her life, the woman feels paralyzed and incapable of reacting. At this point, she suffers from severe psychological stress (insomnia, weight loss, constant fatigue, anxiety) and feels fear, hatred, loneliness, self-pity, shame, confusion and pain.
At this moment, she can also make decisions, such as seeking help, filing a report, hiding in the house of friends and relatives, asking for a divorce and even committing suicide. There is usually a distancing from the aggressor.
Also known as the "honeymoon" phase, this stage is characterized by the repentance of the aggressor, who becomes kind to achieve reconciliation. The woman feels confused and pressured to maintain her relationship in face of society, especially when the couple have children. In other words: she gives up on her rights and resources, while he says he "will change".
There is a relatively calm period in which the woman is happy to see the efforts and changes of attitude, and she also remembers the good moments that they had together. As he shows remorse, she feels responsible for him, which narrows the relationship of dependence between victim and aggressor.
A mix of fear, confusion, guilt and illusion are part of the woman's feelings. Finally, the tension returns and, with it, the aggressions of Stage 1.