What is the DARVO Response in the Context of Sexual Assault Allegations?

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How Do Sexual Predators Use DARVO as a Response to Legitimate Allegations of Assault?

How Do Sexual Predators Use DARVO as a Response to Legitimate Allegations of Assault?

Aug 26, 2022

Although sexual assault is estimated to occur every 98 seconds in the United States, the vast majority of sex crimes unfortunately go unreported. According to Domestic Violence Services, a non-profit agency providing confidential advocacy, support, and emergency services for survivors of domestic, sexual, and dating violence, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police.

Moreover, in 2018, the Brennan Center for Justice confirmed that nearly 80% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported (based on findings from a 2016 Department of Justice analysis on violent crime). Additionally, the Brennan Center noted that as little as 23% of sexual assault survivors report such crimes to law enforcement officials.

There are myriad reasons people do not report sexual assault and abuse. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) analysis, the most common rationales for not reporting incidents cited by survivors include:

  • 20% worry about retaliation (not just from the perpetrator, but from society at large).
  • 13% said they think the police would not do anything to help.
  • 8% said they didn’t think the rape or sexual assault was important enough to report.

As the Brennan Center’s report further noted, sexual assault survivors struggle with a wide range of emotions that make coming forward difficult:

  • Fear of revictimization
  • Distortion of allegations
  • Fear of generally not being believed

“Victims are often too ashamed to come forward. Sexual assault is a very humiliating and dehu-manizing act against someone,” psychotherapist Beverly Engel says.

Why Do Survivors of Sexual Assault Often Blame Themselves?

Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can have a number of adverse implications on a survivor’s life and overall well-being. Sadly, many sexual assault survivors place blame on themselves after an incident occurs, often questioning whether or not more could have been done to prevent the crime.

“[A]ttached to that shame is a lot of self-blame [. . .] because in our culture, we tend to blame victims in general,” Dr. Engle adds.

A response tactic frequently used by sexual predators in an attempt to discredit survivors has recently been garnering attention from media outlets and academic institutions. The response – known as DARVO – is explained in greater detail below.

What Does DARVO Stand For?

DARVO refers to a reaction which perpetrators of wrongdoing – particularly sexual offenders – may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior, according to Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD, of the University of Oregon.

DARVO is an acronym which stands for:

  • Deny
  • Attack, and …
  • Reverse Victim and Offender

The sexual 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 – or the whistle-blower – into an alleged offender,” according to Dr. Freyd.

“This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of ‘falsely accused’ and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation,” Freyd wrote.

In an opinion column for the Michigan Daily, Sierra Elise Hansen referred to DARVO (or being ‘DARVOed‘) as the “number one tactic of psychological abusers.”

What Does it Mean to be DARVOed?

Cynthia Vialle-Giancotti, a Graduate Dissertation Fellow at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, wrote in December 2021 that the DARVO tactic is “more common than we suspect” and “preys on our lack of awareness.”

The article published on the Stanford website noted:

DARVO is a tactic typically observed in instances of sexual misconduct (from mild to violent), where the resolution of “he said/she said” scenarios still often depends solely on the victim’s credibility.

What are Some Famous Examples of DARVO?

As the Stanford article notes, examples of powerful men using DARVO include:

  • Bill Clinton’s reaction to Monica Lewinsky’s accusations (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. These allegations are false.”)
  • Donald Trump’s vituperations against claims of sexual harassment and misconduct (“These claims are all fabricated, they’re pure fiction and they’re outright lies.”)
  • Harvey Weinstein’s general practice of smearing the reputation of women who refused his sexual advances

In a study examining the public’s reaction to DARVO strategies being used through an “experimental vignette depicting a situation of interpersonal violence,” researchers at the University of Oregon found:

Whenever DARVO was part of the vignette, their subjects were more likely to doubt the victim’s credibility.

“Research by Dr Freyd and her colleague, Sarah Harsey, found that exposure to a DARVO response was associated with less belief of the victim and more blame of the victim, meaning the response is successful for the perpetrators of abuse,” an article from Metro.co.uk confirmed.

How Common are False Accusations of Sexual Assault?

Although legitimate instances of sexual assault are significantly unreported, false accusations are extremely uncommon. In fact, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) confirms that false accusations of sexual assault or rape are estimated to be somewhere between only 2% and 10% in the United States.

“Given these statistics, we should be doing everything in our power to remove societal and struc-tural barriers that can prevent survivors from coming forward,” the Brennan Center for Justice wrote.

How to File a California Sexual Assault Claim

Sexual assault survivors in California have the right to file civil claims seeking to recover financial compensation for various damages. A civil lawsuit can be a means of securing justice on a survivor’s own terms, and ensuring that financial restitution is made for harm endured.

Whether you were victimized through a rape, an act of sexual assault or abuse, sexual harassment, or another type of sexual violence, you can speak to an attorney from Dordulian Law Group (DLG) to discuss your legal options. DLG’s sexual assault lawyers are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have and provide an overview relative to how long your case may take to settle (and how much it may be worth).

Some of the damages that may be pursued in a sexual assault civil action include:

  • Emotional trauma
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Hospital or medical bills (past and future)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Psychological harm
  • Counseling or therapy expenses

To speak with a DLG Los Angeles sexual assault attorney for a free and confidential consultation, contact us today at 818-322-4056.

Choose the Best Sexual Assault Lawyers to Handle Your Case

DLG is a leading California sexual assault firm founded by former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. Dordulian’s more than 25 years of experience has included over 100 jury trial victories, in excess of $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts recovered for clients, and a 98% winning record.

Dordulian created DLG’s SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) of dedicated professionals to offer survivors a unique and supportive form expert legal representation. With DLG, survivors are afforded a 24/7 four-tiered support network throughout the entire legal process:

  • Tier I: Sam Dordulian and his team of skilled and proven sexual assault lawyers
  • Tier II: A licensed clinical therapist with more than 15 years of experience assisting survivors
  • Tier III: Two licensed and accredited victim advocates who have dedicated their careers to helping survivors of sexual assault
  • Tier IV: An in-house Chief Investigator, Moses Castillo, with more than 30 years of experience as a retired LAPD sex crimes detective

DLG has the knowledge and skill you need to secure maximum financial compensation for your sexual assault case. Some our recent case victories demonstrate the dedication, professionalism, and compassion we provide to each and every client:

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Ready to take the first step toward pursuing justice after a sexual assault, rape, or incident of sexual harassment? DLG’s dedicated lawyers are standing by to help file your claim, pursue a maximum financial damages award, and secure the justice you deserve.

Contact a DLG California sexual assault attorney today to learn more.

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