DARVO is an acronym meaning “Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.” It is a manipulation tactic that perpetrators of abuse and their defense teams use to deny their wrongdoings and reverse blame onto the victim in an attempt to avoid penalty or conviction. Both individuals and institutions, such as universities and churches, use DARVO against sexual abuse survivors.
This kind of tactic is an egregious abuse of power in the courtroom. An attorney from our firm can defend you or a loved one against DARVO and other unacceptable attacks in your pursuit of justice.
What Is the DARVO Technique?
The DARVO technique can be broken down into the following steps:
Once an abuser has been accused, their first step in the DARVO process is to deny the allegations made against them. Whether the allegations involve sexual abuse, psychological abuse, or other forms of misconduct, the alleged abuser may say things like:
- “I did not do that.”
- “I would never do such a thing.”
- “This is a fabrication and none of the events in these accusations ever happened.”
- “This situation is being blown way out of proportion.”
The next step of the DARVO technique is to attack the survivor in an effort to discredit them or discourage them from continuing with their case. Psychologically abusive strategies may be used to make the survivor question their beliefs, such as “gaslighting,” a manipulation tactic aimed at convincing a person that their perceived reality isn’t accurate.
The defendant or their legal team may make insinuating, discrediting statements about how:
- You did something to deserve the abuse
- Your testimony can’t be trusted
- You’re just looking for attention
Reverse Victim and Offender
In the final step of the DARVO process, the defendant will attempt to reverse the roles in the case and claim that they were the victim instead. They may emphasize that they, as the defendant, are the real “victim” suffering damaging personal and professional effects because of these allegations.
If the defendant is an individual, they might claim that you deceived them into engaging in sexual activity so that you could destroy their career, relationships, or reputation. They might accuse you of trying to profit off of the institution for your own financial gain.
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It Is Unethical to Pit Survivors Against Their Abuser Through DARVO
While common, this technique is abhorrent and unacceptable. Our team can stand by your side throughout these attacks and defend you in front of the judge or jury. You shouldn’t have to face further abuse in your pursuit of justice, and anyone who attempts these tactics should face intense, aggressive scrutiny from your legal representatives.
How Is DARVO Used Against Survivors of Sexual Abuse?
Perpetrators use DARVO in sexual abuse cases in an effort to confuse, undermine, and silence those they abused. It can be an effective strategy to convince plaintiffs to withdraw their cases because they might begin to doubt themselves, become afraid of retaliation efforts, or think they don’t have enough evidence to prove their cases.
Research studies have found that when DARVO is used against sexual abuse survivors, it can cause mental and physical effects. For example:
- The Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma found that survivor confrontation using the DARVO technique caused survivors to self-blame, meaning they were convinced that some of their actions may have led to their own abuse.
- “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender” published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma found that the DARVO technique can also affect how other people might perceive the survivor. The study found that participants found the survivors to be “less believable, more responsible for the violence, and more abusive” while the perpetrator was found to be “less abusive and less responsible.”
- Feminism & Psychology released a report on how the DARVO technique influences betrayal trauma theory, which suggests that sexual abuse survivors may begin to question their memories, particularly those who suffered childhood abuse, when questioned by powerful figures or institutions.
Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers Want to Advocate For and Defend You
Unfortunately, many sexual abuse survivors do not report their abuse, let alone file civil cases against their abusers. The use of DARVO may also discourage other survivors from believing they can make a difference by taking legal action. However, our legal team wants you to understand that you’re not alone. The burden of proving your case is not on your shoulders. Nor do you have to withstand manipulation from defense attorneys.
We will place the burden of your case squarely on our shoulders and defend you against the defense’s egregious manipulation tactics.
When you hire a sexual abuse lawyer from Jenner Law, we put our background in law, experience with previous successes, and powerful strategies toward building your case. We can manage the entire process on your behalf, even leading a private investigation to gather evidence that can support your claims. Some of our services may involve:
- File your claim within the state’s statute of limitations
- Interviewing witnesses who can provide testimony for your case
- Consulting expert witnesses, such as industry professionals, medical practitioners, and mental health workers
- Retrieving documented evidence for your case, such as video footage or audio recordings
- Drafting paperwork and submitting these documents on your behalf
- Interviewing and talking with the perpetrator and their legal team so that you do not have to experience this kind of triggering communication
- Negotiating any out-of-court settlement deals on your behalf and advising you on whether you should accept an offer based on your damages
- Preparing your case for trial if necessary
Our legal team aims to protect you as much as possible. If you ever have questions or concerns, including if you feel threatened, feel free to come to us and we will provide counsel on how to move forward.
The Sexual Abuse Attorneys at Jenner Law Will Fight for Justice
Knowing what DARVO is and how it is used can give you a better idea of what you’re up against and what your lawyer can do to help. If you would like to come forward about the sexual abuse you suffered, a sexual abuse lawyer from Jenner Law wants to help and hold your abuser accountable.
Our firm helps sexual abuse survivors in various states nationwide, so feel free to call our office in Baltimore to see how we may be able to serve you and your case.