Recognising perpetrator manipulation of the French legal system

Perpetrators deploy common strategies to discredit their victims and often use the legal system to continue their abuse. However, judges, police, media and society are all starting to recognise these manipulative tactics and patterns of behaviour.

Verified by Assoc. Prof. Andreea Gruev-Vintila on 17/11/2023

The strategy

A common strategy used by domestic abuse perpetrators is known as “DARVO”, an English acronym which refers to denying, attacking, and reversing the roles of victim and offender.

These strategies are often carried out with the help of a perpetrator’s supporters who have also been manipulated by the abuser to think they are doing the right thing.

Perpetrators deny the abuse ever took place, attack the credibility of anyone reporting it and claim that they are the real victims in the situation.

These strategies are used in private, in public and regularly in legal proceedings.

They deny the abuse

Research and statistics show that false accusations of domestic abuse by women are very uncommon. Yet in the majority of cases, perpetrators will claim that the survivor’s allegations are not true.

Common perpetrator defense claims: 

  • she’s lying to get full custody of our children
  • she’s lying for her own financial gain
  • she’s lying to get revenge
  • she’s lying to get immigration papers
  • she’s crazy/has a serious mental health condition.

Domestic violence experts know these claims have no foundation in reality, but they are still used by perpetrators and their lawyers in an attempt to win their case.

What can I do?

  • Trust your memory of the abuse.
  • Write down the incidents of violence, abuse and his controlling behaviour, as soon as you can.
  • Gather as much evidence and as many witnesses as possible.

They attack the person reporting the violence

It is very common that perpetrators will try to discredit and intimidate anyone reporting their abuse, be it the survivor, their children or a witness.

These defamation strategies will commonly include:

  • spreading false and damaging information about the survivor and/or the person reporting the violence
  • making false allegations of substance abuse or serious mental health conditions against the survivor
  • using the survivor’s mental health treatment to claim they are an unfit parent
  • initiating legal proceedings based on false grounds as a form of harassment
  • committing crimes, such as fraud, in the name of the victim/survivor
  • threatening the victim/survivor with any of the above.

What can I do?

  • Recognise that you are experiencing continued domestic abuse, known as post-separation abuse, and seek support.
  • Try not to feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. He is in the wrong, not you.
  • Think about what evidence you can use to disprove any false claim.

They reverse the roles of Victim and Offender

Statistics demonstrate that women are rarely perpetrators of domestic abuse. Research shows that when women use violent behaviour, it is usually to resist or survive coercive control and violence. Nevertheless, perpetrators often make false accusations about their female victims.

Thankfully, the authorities are starting to recognise and understand this perpetrator behaviour.

These strategies will commonly include:

  • making false allegations about the survivor to the police or child protection services
  • accusing the survivor of “parental alienation” for trying to protect the children
  • pretending to be the victim and claiming the survivor is the perpetrator.

What can I do?

  • Try not to feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. He is in the wrong, not you.
  • Try not to feel too anxious. The authorities are legally obliged to investigate every accusation, but they are starting to recognise this common perpetrator strategy too.
  • Think about any evidence you can use to disprove false claims and/or show to the authorities to demonstrate his pattern of abusive and violent behaviour.

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

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