“It has a precise name given to it after decades of academic research” Trump Uses Inverted Victimhood as a Strategy Against Legal Challenges

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In a thought-provoking analysis published by The Guardian, Sidney Blumenthal, a former adviser in the White House, delves into former President Donald Trump’s strategic use of what he describes as “inverted victimhood” to navigate the myriad of legal challenges and criminal charges he faces. Blumenthal argues that Trump has perfected a narrative technique where he portrays himself as the persecuted party, transforming his accusers into the alleged wrongdoers.

Blumenthal explains that Trump’s approach goes beyond mere retaliation against his accusers. By casting himself as the aggrieved party, Trump not only deflects blame but also positions himself as a martyr fighting against injustice on behalf of his followers. This narrative allows Trump to frame every legal battle, from indictments to lawsuits, as unjust persecutions akin to a “witch hunt,” thereby galvanizing his base with the notion that these legal challenges are not just attacks on him but on them as well.

The effectiveness of Trump’s strategy, Blumenthal notes, is rooted in a well-established psychological manipulation technique known as DARVO. This acronym, coined by Jennifer Freyd, professor emerita of psychology at the University of Oregon, stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” Freyd’s work, primarily focused on the dynamics of sexual assault and institutional betrayal, identifies DARVO as a common tactic used by perpetrators to evade accountability by denying wrongdoing, attacking the accuser, and reversing the roles of victim and offender.

Blumenthal traces the origins of Trump’s manipulative tactics to his upbringing and early influences, particularly the harsh model set by his father and the aggressive legal advice from Roy Cohn, Trump’s former attorney. Cohn’s strategy was to counterattack legal disputes aggressively, aiming to exhaust the resources of his adversaries and bog down the legal process, thereby avoiding accountability.

“Trump’s pattern is textbook manipulation – literally,” wrote Blumenthal. “It has a precise name given to it after decades of academic research. Jennifer Freyd, now professor emerita of psychology at the University of Oregon, developed the theory over her career studying sexual assault, trauma, and institutional betrayal. She named the process by which the perpetrator seeks to avoid accountability Darvo – a strategy with the elements of denial, attack, and reversal of victim and offender.”

This strategy was vividly illustrated in the trial involving E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of rape. Throughout the trial, Trump and his legal team, led by attorney Alina Habba, vehemently denied the allegations, accusing Carroll of fabricating the story to sell books and portraying Trump as the victim of a malicious campaign. Despite their efforts, the jury sided with Carroll, awarding her $83.3 million in damages after a tumultuous legal proceeding that highlighted the contentious tactics employed by Trump’s defense.

Blumenthal concludes that Trump’s reliance on DARVO extends beyond his legal defenses to form the core of his political messaging. By consistently denying any wrongdoing, attacking a wide array of perceived enemies, and portraying himself as the victim of a vast conspiracy, Trump has managed to maintain a significant degree of support among Republicans, many of whom believe he is the target of unfounded accusations. This narrative, Blumenthal argues, serves as Trump’s “shield of innocence,” enabling him to navigate the complex web of legal and political challenges he faces.

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