DARVO and domestic violence cases

Written 4th April 2024 by Jack Tomlinson

In some domestic violence cases, it can sometimes be difficult to work out who is the perpetrator and who is the victim, particularly when allegations are put forward by both parties.

As a result of cases like this becoming more prevalent, more attention is being drawn to a psychological condition named DARVO. This is an acronym for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.

The general perception held by the public, and indeed the police, is to perceive males as perpetrators of offences against women as opposed to the other way around. A recent example was published in a news article where it was believed that the male had suffered from DARVO.

What is DARVO?

This is commonly encountered in cases where survivors of domestic violence are arrested or event charged with offences following their initial report to the police. Perpetrators of abuse will make allegations and redirect the blame, making accusations towards the victim in response to police contact.

In practical terms, DARVO works as follows:

  1. Deny – the perpetrator of abuse will deny any allegations made towards them
  2. Attack – the perpetrator will attack the person that has made the allegation. This is done in revenge for the victim attempting to make the perpetrator accountable for their actions. The aim for the perpetrator is to manipulate both the victim and the situation to put themselves in a better light.
  3. Reverse Victim and Offender – the perpetrator will then claim that they were in fact, the victim of domestic violence at the hands of the actual victim.

How DARVO may arise

Often when a perpetrator makes allegations, they will attempt to gaslight the victim by forcing them to have doubts over their memory of events. The attacks on the victim will then lead to real or fabricated accounts being provided to the police about the victim, such as whether they have abused alcohol or drugs during the relationship or whether there may be a ‘jealousy’ or ‘possessive’ angle to portray.

Combating DARVO

DARVO can be difficult to recognise however we have dealt with many pre-charge cases which have involved returned allegations against our clients in response to initial police involvement. In many cases, it can be possible to find evidence to support our client’s claims which then go to discredit any reactive claims made by the perpetrator, for example text history which may show clear evidence that the perpetrator of abuse has demonstrated controlling and coercive control.

Olliers Solicitors – specialist domestic violence lawyers

For many years, the specialist team at Olliers has represented clients facing allegations of domestic violence. During an investigation stage of the case, we will liaise with police in a sensitive manner. 

Where an allegation is denied we will ensure that our client’s case is presented meticulously.  If the matter proceeds to court, we will ensure that no stone is left unturned in the defence of our client. If you require advice in relation to a domestic investigation please contact our new enquiry team either by email to info@olliers.com, or by telephone on 020 3883 6790 (London) or 0161 834 1515 (Manchester) or by completing the form below.

Jack Tomlinson

Jack Tomlinson



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