Statistically, those who are abused as a child are more likely to grow up to have abusive relationships either where they are revictimized or become abusive themselves. This pattern is known as the cycle of abuse. Just because this is a common cycle, however, does not mean we cannot break it.
There are a variety of factors that can lead to the cycle of abuse including psychological changes related to anger, trust, control, and insecurity. When abuse is all the survivor has known, it is difficult to understand and realize that healthy relationships are possible.
Survivors may not recognize what healthy relationships look like or they may mistakenly believe that they do not deserve “real love.” This can cause them to lash out and harm others, or be manipulated by others who want to cause them further harm.
For some, harming others may be related to attempting to “undo” their past trauma by being the one in power and regaining control. However, this is a futile process and often only creates more pain for those involved.
This answer is not meant to justify abuse or to blame survivors for what they have experienced. While we can understand why the cycle of abuse occurs, we cannot harm others just because someone harmed us.
Breaking the cycle of abuse is a challenging topic. As a survivor it is important to recognize signs of cycle abuse, become aware of your risk factors, learn how to identify and manage your emotions, and recognize that healing takes time.
Studies show that enhancing safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with intimate partners and with children during early adulthood can decrease the odds that a survivor of sexual assault will become a perpetrator themselves. Work towards developing those healthy relationships once ready.
It is important to acknowledge that while 12% of men who were sexually abused in childhood went on to commit sexual offences, being sexually abused does not cause someone to become a perpetrator. The majority of boys who are sexually abused do not go on to commit abuse.
We are not responsible for what happened to us, but we are responsible for our own healing. In order to break a cycle, we must recognize it first.