Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon
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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.
Jennifer Freyd introduced the term "DARVO" near the end of a 1997 publication about her primary research focus, "betrayal trauma theory." (For more on betrayal trauma theory, see http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/defineBT.html.)
The reference for the 1997 article introducing the term is:
Freyd, J.J. (1997) Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory. Feminism & Psychology, 7, 22-32.
In that paper Freyd explained that DARVO responses may be effective for perpetrators. "...I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower's credicility, and so on..... [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed... The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense." (Freyd, 1997, p 29-30)
These ideas were further developed in an article by Veldhuis and Freyd (1999):
Veldhuis, C. B., & Freyd, J. J. (1999). Groomed for silence, groomed for betrayal. In M. Rivera (Ed.), Fragment by Fragment: Feminist Perspectives on Memory and Child Sexual Abuse (pp. 253-282). Charlottetown, PEI Canada: Gynergy Books.
In the 1999 article Veldhuis and Freyd explore the separate components of DARVO, and they also note a connection between DARVO and "betrayal blindness," a concept from betrayal trauma theory (Freyd, 1996; see http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/defineBT.html):
"By denying, attacking and reversing perpetrators into victims, reality gets even more confusing and unspeakable for the real victim. .... These perpetrator reactions increase the need for betrayal blindness. If the victim does speak out and gets this level of attack, she quickly gets the idea that silence is safer." (Veldhuis & Freyd, 1999. p 274).
Freyd, J.J. (2003). What is DARVO? Retrieved April 1, 2003 from http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/defineDARVO.html.
For ordering information and additional books, articles, and presentations on betrayal trauma theory see: http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/trauma.html.
Last update 04-May-2003 , firstname.lastname@example.org
- What is a Betrayal Trauma? What is Betrayal Trauma Theory?
- What is Shareability?
- What about Recovered Memories?