Perpetrators of interpersonal violence sometimes use denial, engage in personal attacks on victim credibility, and assume a victimized role (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender; DARVO) to deflect blame. Two new experimental vignette studies
were conducted to investigate DARVO. Experiment 1 (316 university students) aimed to assess the effects of a perpetrator’s use of DARVO on perceptions of perpetrator and victim credibility, responsibility, and abusiveness. Participants who were exposed
to DARVO perceived the victim to be less believable, more responsible for the violence, and more abusive; DARVO also led participants to judge the perpetrator as less abusive and less responsible. Experiment 2 (360 university students) examined whether learning about DARVO could mitigate its effects on individuals’ perceptions of perpetrators and victims.
Results from Experiment 2 indicate that DARVO-educated participants
perceived the victim as less abusive and more believable, and rated the perpetrator as less believable. These experiments show DARVO effectively reinforces the distrust of victims’ narratives, but education can reduce some of its power. We suggest that
more research and education about this perpetrator tactic is needed to combat its anti-victim effects.