Discussions about domestic violence often include the term DARVO. It is an acronym that describes the response of those who have genuinely engaged in abusive behavior to allegations of such.
Though intended as a purely descriptive term, DARVO has implications for men defending against allegations of domestic violence.
What DARVO stands for
According to Newsweek, DARVO stands for Deny, Attack and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender. People who have genuinely committed domestic violence against someone else often engage in DARVO behaviors, accusing the other party of making a false allegation. The goal is to discredit the other party and maintain the power in the relationship.
How DARVO presents challenges for a domestic violence defense
Either men or women can commit domestic violence. Some statistics suggest that violence against men by women is rarer than the reverse, while others indicate that the incidences may be roughly equal. Anyone, regardless of gender, who has genuinely engaged in domestic violence against someone else may exhibit DARVO behavior.
Nevertheless, since the misconception persists that, at least in heterosexual relationships, women are always the victims of domestic violence and men are always the perpetrators, any attempt by a man to report domestic violence by a woman, or to defend himself against allegations of abuse, may appear to the casual observer as DARVO behavior.
How to identify DARVO behavior
DARVO behavior is an attempt by someone who has genuinely committed domestic violence to continue to exert control over someone else. Individuals who engage in DARVO behavior minimize their role in the conflict and blame others for their own behavior. On the other hand, individuals who have been on the receiving end of domestic violence take accountability for their own actions and blame themselves for the conflict. If these people have acted violently, they are more likely to admit to it.
Ultimately, the facts of each individual case demonstrate who is engaging in DARVO behavior and who has a legitimate complaint.