How to Tell Who’s Engaging in DARVO Tactics

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard—are either of them perpetuating DARVO tactics? Experts can’t seem to agree but now a sociologist has explained how as spectators of the trial, we can hold “damaging, victim-blaming beliefs we aren’t aware of.”

DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Dr. Nicole Bedera, a sociologist who studies sexual violence, has shed some light on why it is confusing to assess who the victim or the perpetrator is in certain circumstances.

“A DARVO response can be confusing. And it’s meant to be,” she tweeted in a lengthy Twitter thread. “To avoid accountability, a perpetrator is trying to make it harder for us to tell who the real victim is.”

Depp 58, sued his ex-wife Heard for defamation over an op-ed published by The Washington Post in 2018, in which she said she was a victim of domestic abuse. While Heard didn’t name her ex-husband in the piece, his legal team has argued it was obvious she was referring to him. Heard, meanwhile, has countersued for $100 million for damages.

Thursday was the penultimate day of the with the jury set to hear closing arguments today (May 27).

Throughout the vicious legal battle, both Heard and Depp have made serious allegations of violence against the other.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and DARVO—who is the abuser and who is the victim?
Getty Images

Jennifer J. Freyd, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon previously confirmed the definition of DARVO to Newsweek.

“DARVO refers to a reaction to perpetrators of wrongdoing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior,” she said.

“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—or the whistleblower—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 and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.”

Using this definition, Dr. Bedera explained: “Perpetrators mostly use violence to control their victims” and “Victims mostly use violence to defend themselves from an ongoing or impending attack.”

She added: “Perpetrators usually blame their partners for their violence. They minimize their own roles in conflict,” while “victims usually blame themselves and are quick to take accountability for their actions. They are less likely to deny acting violently.”

Ultimately, the questions above boil down to one theme, Dr. Bedera said—and that is: “Is this person trying to control the other’s life? Or are they simply trying to regain control of theirs?”

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a publicly available resource for determining the core aggressor in relationships where domestic violence exists states that it is difficult to determine, especially when both people in a relationship use violence, is who may be the core abuser and who may be the primary victim.

Follow Newsweek‘s live blog for trial updates.

Leave a Comment