The 3 Types of Escalating Violence in Relationships

Domestic violence remains a social scourge, especially in heterosexual relationships, perpetrated by men against women. Of course, she is not the only one, but she is the majority.

This type of violence does not happen suddenly. There is a whole process that can be more or less long, ranging from subtle and socially accepted behaviors like micromachismo, through psychological and physical violence and reaching the worst level, which is murder.

Then we will see what they are types of escalation of domestic violencehighlighting the stages of the process and the phases of abusive relationships.

    How does the escalation of domestic violence usually occur?

    Domestic violence is a social scourge still present in our society. Violence is traditionally perpetrated by men against their female partners in heterosexual relationships, although this does not mean that there is no domestic violence in same-sex relationships or that some women exercise it, physically and psychologically, against their husbands and husbands. .

    At any rate, Domestic violence is not a sudden phenomenon. If this is the case, the abuse does not take the form of physical aggression from the beginning of the relationship, but involves a whole process of gradually increasing violence. This escalation of domestic violence is a steady increase in aggression, which extends over time, repeats itself, becomes chronic, increasing in frequency and severity as the relationship continues.

    Talking about a unitary classification of what the types of escalation of violence in the couple are is complex, because to begin with, many organizations specialized in this aspect have their own proposals when it comes to defining typologies. However, we can identify up to four stages by which aggressive behaviors in heterosexual relationships escalate, where the victim is usually the female and it is relatively common for an asymmetric attack dynamic to occur, with one party clearly dominant over the other.

    The first of the steps is very subtle, often still undervalued in today’s society: micromachismo. These behaviors are seen as the breeding ground for other more serious and intense forms of violence against women, being the first stage that, after a while, becomes a whole subtle repertoire of contempt and aggression against women.

    Micromachismo is difficult to detect without being aware of it, as many of them are socially accepted practices or “harmless” expressions. Some examples:

    • The feminine as something negative (for example, using feminine adjectives to insult men).
    • “You run like a girl.”
    • Pink for girls, blue (and almost any color) for boys.
    • “Women who don’t shave are sluts.”

    This first step does not necessarily have to become physical and psychological violence against women, but it contributes to it. Even the most feminist male allies have the sometimes pejorative expression of women in their repertoire, sometimes unaware of the harm the use of such expressions can do to women. It is for this reason that it is considered that one of the best ways to prevent the ascent to the other rungs, which involve manifest forms of violence against women, is raise awareness of micromachismo.

    The next step is emotional abuse. It enjoys greater awareness in society in general, but not as much as physical abuse itself. Offensive, unpleasant, derogatory comments towards the partner, psychological pressure, manipulation and other forms of verbal and emotional abuse they begin the process of lowering self-esteem of women and, consequently, an increase in their submission and fear of men.

    This emotional abuse comes at a time when it becomes physical, being the next step. Aggression is the most obvious, in the form of slapping, grabbing hair, throwing objects, hitting… This is often the last step on the domestic violence scale, but other times it is the worst of all stages: the violent death of the coupler.

      The cycle of violence: the boiled frog

      In many cases, the escalation of domestic violence is explained by the famous fable of the frog and boiling water by the Franco-Swiss writer and philosopher Olivier Clerc. The story is as follows:

      “If we put a frog in a pot of boiling water, the amphibian immediately jumps up and manages to escape. Instead, if we put a pot of cold water and throw the frog, it remains worry-free. Then, if you heat the water little by little, the frog does not react, because it adapts to the temperature until, without realizing it, it dies boiled.”

      The fable defines very well how domestic violence usually occurs. It usually doesn’t start with a physical assault right at the start of the relationship, but with a whole series of behaviors that, even from the inside, are perceived as harmless. Thereafter, the intensity of the aggressions increases, going from simple unpleasant comments to blows and insults, as we evoked with the description of the escalation in the previous section.

      That’s not to say there aren’t relationships where abuse begins with actual physical assault. However, if it happens so suddenly going straight to physical aggression, the woman is more likely to report it. If the abuse comes on suddenly, help is sought immediately, or at least the relationship is broken off when it suddenly becomes apparent that it was not as planned.

      If the abuse happens little by little, it is much more difficult to see the problem and ask for help because, on the one hand, the woman has normalized the situation, and on the other hand, her self-esteem has already been so underrated, having come through the ranks of micromachismo and emotional abuse, that can even be considered deserving of such abuse.

        The main types of escalation of violence in the couple

        Rather than the escalating types of domestic violence, we will focus on the very cycle of violence in this type of relationship. This was proposed by the founder of the American Institute of Domestic Violence, Lenore Walker. Thanks to it, we can understand how violence occurs and also why it persists. The stages or escalations in the cycle of abuse may vary in duration and frequency depending on the case, but the vast majority of cases where there is abuse coincide with them:

        1. Voltage build-up phase

        This escalation phase is characterized by the outbreak of conflicts within the relationship. There are episodes of anger, arguments, accusations, contempt and hostile attitudes, especially towards women, that recur during this phase. Here the woman is trying to calm down and please her male partner and for this she avoids doing things that bother her.

        This phase usually occurs when you already have your time and the micromachismo stage has been overcome. We are talking about emotional abuse here and the woman has already internalized the idea that if her male partner gets angry, it is probably her fault. His self-esteem has been reduced enough to believe that the blame for the conflicts lies with him.

          2. Violence explosion phase

          This is where physical violence explodes, at the very heart of ill-treatment, although this should not be understood as insults and abusive language which is not part of gender-based violence. However, this point is the one that most clearly shows that you are in an abusive relationship. Physical assaults occur and emotional abuse escalates.

          Shaking, threats, blows, jostling… and other physical attacks define the relationship. Nor can we ignore sexual assault. Forcing women to have sex, regardless of their degree of couple, remains rape, a question that has become increasingly sensitive in recent years. This type of behavior is called partner rape.

          It is at this stage that the victim can ask for help. Describing the whole process a lot, the following can be one of the following three options. Ideally, you should report your partner, end the relationship, and get rid of the abuse; the usual is that he does not dare to report or regrets having done so and withdraws his complaint thinking that the relationship will improve; and worst of all, your partner kills you.

            3. Honeymoon Stages

            Given this phase, it is essential to trap women in the abusive relationship. Through emotional manipulation, the man prevents the end of the relationship and the victim’s trust is earned to the point that, if she dares to file a complaint, she can withdraw it.

            During this phase, the man apologizes, promises that he will not reproduce again and looks for all kinds of excuses and even uses psychological tricks to convince the woman that it was really her fault, who ends up feeling responsible for the situation. After the man’s apology and his apparent remorse, the woman is led to believe that the situation will change and that she will continue the relationship.


              The phases that we have just seen are those which, seen from the outside, would be easy to conclude that the behaviors that we see there are violence in the couple. These are phases that come just after the stage of micromachismo and that of the most subtle psychological violencesuch as outrageous or nasty comments about, for example, a woman’s physical appearance or cooking style.

              It’s a cycle. The three phases explained here will be repeated again and again until either the woman manages to get out of the relationship, either on her own initiative, or rescued from the outside, or, unfortunately, the relationship ends with her partner putting end to his days. . There comes a time when it’s perfectly possible that the honeymoon phase will go away, not happen at all, and the violent episodes will become constant.

              The normalization and minimization of violence, the shame of feeling responsible for the situation, the possible retaliation from one’s partner and guilt prevent victims from seeing and understanding the problems in which they find themselves. In case they see it, they are afraid to take the plunge because of the consequences they believe or know they might have. The woman should not be blamed for the abuse or for not being able to get out of the abusive relationship. The situation in which women find themselves and the difficulty in getting out of it are very serious and enormous.

              Bibliographic references

              • (sf). Gender-Based Violence: The Escalation of Violence. Invest in psychologists.
              • Johnson, Michael. (2006). Conflict and control: gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. Violence against women. 12. 1003-18. 10.1177/1077801206293328.
              • Ruiz-Pérez, I. (sf). Training program for trainers in gender perspective in health. Spain.
              • Walker, LE (2009). The Battered Woman Syndrome – Third Edition. New York: Springer.
              • Walker, L. (2012). Abused woman syndrome. Desclée de Brouwer publishers.

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