Short Definition

DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility or even blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.

See: http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/defineDARVO.html

I think this is a brilliant description a typical reaction. I notice it in arguments when one person in a relationship has a grievance. Okay, to make things clear I will create a DARVO scenario, let’s call one person A and the other person B.

-A has done something hurtful or abusive to B
-B confronts A in order to resolve the issue.
-A denies B’s accusations. A calls B crazy for even bringing this subject up. A accuses B of making things up or imagining things.
-A then becomes angry and attacks B’s credibility or points out B’s shortcomings. -A then feels victimized by B because B’s confrontation makes A feel exposed.
-A then accuses B of being abusive person for raising this issue, criticizing A’s behavior, or making false accusations.

Clearly, A does not want to be the guilty party. A is like many of us when we deflect our guilt and justify our actions. Who wants to hear that they are a bad bad person? B’s issues are still unresolved nor has A reformed their hurtful behavior. Instead A is involved in the blame game. Perpetrator make themselves into victims in order to justify their actions, no matter how abusive, exploitative, or heinous. Cheaters ofen use the DARVO action, especially when their partner catches them in an embarrassing lie. Perpetrators of domestic violence use DARVO and it gets real ugly.

I came upon this site that explained Darvo, from my good friend Kali Tal. I think she pointed out that DARVO reponse is typical when confronting sexist and racist behavior. Now, racists feel as if they are attacked, they use DARVO tactics to make a claim that anti-racists are impinging upon their freedom. DARVO is another power trip for an oppressor or abuser. I think DARVO applies to many relationshps. But it is especially problematic when the perpetrator holds most of the power, whether in a family or work relationship.