Understanding DARVO: Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender

Understanding the techniques, tactics, and methods abusers use can take away their power and help people better protect themselves. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on understanding the dynamics of abuse, manipulation, and coercion. One concept that has gained attention in this realm is DARVO, an acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Coined by Dr. Jennifer Freyd, this term describes a common pattern of response often observed in situations involving interpersonal conflict, particularly in cases of abuse or misconduct. In this article, we’ll delve into what DARVO is, how it works, and its implications for both victims and bystanders.

DARVO is a three-step strategy that perpetrators may use to deflect accountability, shift blame, and manipulate the perception of events. Let’s look at each component:

Deny: First, the abuser denies any wrongdoing or responsibility for the situation at hand. Perpetrators may outright deny the allegations against them, minimize their actions, or distort the facts to create doubt or confusion. By denying their involvement or the severity of their behavior, perpetrators seek to undermine the credibility of the victim’s accusations.

Attack: After denying the allegations, perpetrators often launch a counterattack against the accuser. This attack can take various forms, including character assassination, gaslighting, or trying to shift the focus onto the victim’s behavior or motives. By attacking the credibility, integrity, or sanity of the victim, perpetrators aim to discredit their claims and regain control of the narrative.

Reverse Victim and Offender: Finally, perpetrators attempt to reverse the roles of victim and offender, casting themselves as the “true victims” of the situation. They may portray themselves as misunderstood, unjustly accused, or even as the ones who are being persecuted. By flipping the narrative in this way, perpetrators seek to garner sympathy, support, or leniency from others.

Understanding DARVO is crucial for recognizing and addressing patterns of manipulation and abuse. By recognizing these tactics, victims and bystanders can better identify when DARVO is being employed and resist its effects. Additionally, raising awareness about DARVO can help shift societal attitudes and beliefs surrounding issues of abuse and misconduct, fostering a culture of accountability and support for survivors.

When faced with DARVO, it’s essential for victims and allies to remain steadfast in their truth and not be swayed by the tactics of manipulation. Here are some strategies for responding to DARVO:

  1. Document the facts: Keep records of any evidence or documentation that supports your claims, such as emails, text messages, or witness statements.
  2. Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can provide emotional support and guidance throughout the process.
  3. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the perpetrator to protect yourself from further harm or manipulation.
  4. Advocate for yourself: Stand firm in your truth and advocate for your rights, whether it’s seeking legal recourse, reporting the abuse to authorities, or seeking counseling.

DARVO is a manipulative tactic used by perpetrators to evade accountability and control the narrative in situations of conflict or abuse. By understanding how DARVO operates and learning to recognize its signs, victims and bystanders can empower themselves to challenge and resist these harmful dynamics. Through education, awareness, and support, we can work towards creating a safer and more just society for all.