This is not something I had come across as a recognised behaviour before, however having read an article in Metro News by Ellen Scott it has made sense of so much of what is happening around the current date over trans rights. DARVO is an anacronym for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. According to the article, the acronym was coined in 1997 by Dr Freyd, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon.

This seems to me to be the ploy used by so many of the Gender Critical protagonists, and in particular celebrities and politicians whose views are challenged. What is troubling is that the article comes to the conclusion that this behaviour is effective. How does DARVO work? As it suggests there are consecutive stages. First the behaviour complained about is denied. This is done in several ways, a flat denial “it didn’t happen”, I do not hold those views,  you are making it up”. However it is said by simply denying it is undermining someone’s actual lived reality.

The next stage is the Attack element. At this point the person who has been accused will turn the situation onto the accuser to focus blame on them for having called them out. This is apparent with people of some standing such as a celebrity where they attack by calling someone a liar and that they are calling them out just to be spiteful or jealous. 

These leads on to the Reverse Victim and Offender stage when the person who has been called out  turns the tables and claim that they are the one who is being badly treated and bullied. To reinforce this not unfrequently they will support their claim that they have had trauma in their life too. They then focus on the fact that they feel bullied by these accusations about their alleged wrongdoing ( which has already denied) and that they are the victim who is receiving online abuse and threats. It ends with the person calling them out as the Offender. Ellen Scott suggests the argument will run along the lines of “I am receiving so much online abuse because I am a woman and we live in a sexist society”. She goes on to say that “Now as a critic, you’re stuck. If you continue to call that person out. You’re cruel hateful md want to cause division…..You’re piling on the online abuse”.

What the research carried out by Dr Freyd  has shown is that the result of a DARVO response is that the original victim is less likely to be believed and is more likely to be blamed for the bad situation, making it effective for the original perpetrators of the abuse. As Ellen Scott says “ The dangerous thing is that DARVO works”.

This is a behavioural response that is used very frequently by the Gender Critical movement where they deny they are transphobic in any way and that the trans activists are the  abusers.

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