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Jonathan Majors Wastes No Time Implementing the DARVO Strategy

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | March 27, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | March 27, 2023 |


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First Johnny Depp, and now Jonathan Majors:

Context: “The actor Jonathan Majors was arrested on Saturday in Manhattan and charged with assault, strangulation, and harassment involving a woman in a New York apartment who was taken to the hospital for minor injuries to her head and neck.”

What Is DARVO:

DARVO is an acronym for “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.” Some researchers and advocates have characterized it as a common manipulation strategy of psychological abusers. The abuser denies the abuse ever took place, attacks the victim for attempting to hold the abuser accountable, and claims that they, the abuser, are actually the victim in the situation, thus reversing the reality of the victim and offender. This usually involves not just “playing the victim” but also victim-blaming.

Deny: “Mr. Majors is entirely innocent and did not assault her whatsoever.”
Attack: In a statement released shortly after the arrest, Chaudhry (Majors’ attorney) claimed that the woman “was having an emotional crisis, for which she was taken to the hospital.” (Majors’ team is also characterizing her not as Majors’ girlfriend, but as a “woman he knows.”)
Reverse victim and offender: Chaudhry maintains that her client “is completely innocent and provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows.”

Why Is It Effective?

In 2020, Dr. Freyd and Sarah Harsey showed that observers presented with accounts of abuse followed by a DARVO response were less likely to believe the victim than a control group.

The idea of himpathy - a term coined by philosopher Kate Manne in her 2017 book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny that describes the excessive sympathy shown toward male perpetrators of sexual violence - is central to understanding why DARVO is so effective, says Bedera. “In general, we tend to empathize more with men than with women. We are comfortable asking women to endure sexism - including violence - as part of a feminine gender role and to protect men’s reputation and power. DARVO draws on those cultural biases.”

The media is often complicit. “Every time the media focuses the story on what a man stands to lose by being accused of sexual assault, they are strengthening the power of DARVO,” says Bedera.

Who Gets Targeted for DARVO?

For DARVO to occur a power imbalance must exist. It is most effective when the abuser has more social capital than the survivor.

What Is the Purpose of DARVO?

The abuser is able to craft a scapegoat story which is used to cultivate biases against the target and rally bystanders to their cause.