This may come as a shock to most of you, but I am often not up to date on your whippersnapper, hipster lingo. I am thankful for the Google because I can go on the interwebs and look up stuff you guys talk about, appearing as if I was in the know all the time. Recently, I saw a word that intrigued me, another one of those acronyms that are so popular today. I’ve shared it with several friends, most of whom do not seem to have heard of it.
The word is DARVO.
Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD, a professor from the University of Oregon, wrote a paper entitled, “What is DARVO?” which gives a succinct definition of the term, which seems to be used most in the realm of relationships between abusers and their victims. Here is the definition she gave.
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 — or the whistle blower — 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.
Institutional DARVO occurs when the DARVO is committed by an institution (or with institutional complicity) as when police charge rape victims with lying.
So, DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” DARVO is basically a three-step process.
The DARVO Process
1. The person who commits offenses against others denies that he (or she) has done anything wrong. He loudly maintains his innocence and marshals information to support him. His friends come to his defense and cheer him on – there is no way this man could be guilty of any such thing. His character is beyond reproach.
2. The person goes on the attack against those who have made any accusations against him. We have seen this for years in the case of abusers. How often have we seen an accuser vilified, degraded and demeaned, until at some point the story that person told is verified and the accused has to admit to the truth of the situation. It is a common tactic to refuse to listen to criticism, but instead to attack the motives, the character, the salvation, and the honesty of those who have lodged the critique.
3. This is, perhaps, the key – reverse victim and offender. The person who has committed the offense “plays the victim.” The examples of this are so numerous it is hard to pick one or two. “I am trying to do God’s work, but these bloggers just attack me.” “I have been falsely accused.” It is true that some people are falsely accused, but it is also true that every abuser, every manipulator, every person guilty of unethical behavior claims to be the victim of false accusation when he is confronted with his misdeeds.
What OUGHT we to do?
The Christian response is much more difficult than the DARVO response.
- We listen to criticism, even if we think it is unfair. We do not crumble before it, nor do we let it drive us, and there comes a point at which we give offenders and divisive people the Titus 3:10 treatment, but we must constantly be suspicious of our own motives and actions, recognizing that the flesh is not just active in others, but ourselves.
- We constantly seek, through God’s word, through prayer, to be sensitive to the rebuke of the Spirit.
- We seek to walk in the Fruit of the Spirit, to be people of love and joy and peace and patience, not pride and vengeance.
A family member told me one time, after venturing into Baptist Twitter for a while, that she saw one real problem in our denomination. It wasn’t liberalism or CRT or Intersectionality or even racism. The problem she observed was an overwhelming arrogance on the part of people that caused us to assume we are right, to bully others who disagree and to refuse to listen to opposing positions. I think she had a point.
Certainly, the difference between the DARVO response and the Christian response is pride. We see the DARVO response all too often in Christian leaders, in Baptist leaders in our denomination. We need to do better. You and I need to do better.
Let’s cancel DARVO.