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You Need To Know About DARVO, A Manipulative Tactics

Learn how manipulating partners use DARVO - Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim, and Offender tactics, a dangerous form of gaslighting that flips abuse back on the victim.

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“DARVO is an acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. It describes a manipulative tactic often used by abusers to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and shift the blame onto their victims,” explains Avigail Lev, PsyD, founder of Bay Area CBT Center and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy online.

To control and exert power over others, narcissists and offenders often use deception and manipulation. One particularly sneaky tactic they use is called DARVO tactics, which stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.

This psychological defence mechanism allows people to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, place the blame on their victims, and present themselves as the ones who are manipulating others. In this expository article, we will examine the complex mechanisms behind DARVO tactics and how narcissists and offenders use them to manipulate those around them.

Understanding DARVO Tactics


1.  Deny: 

DARVO methods start with denial. Narcissists and offenders frequently aggressively reject any wrongdoing when confronted about their acts or behavior. This denial can take many different forms, such as flatly contradicting the accusations, downplaying how bad their acts were, or even gaslighting their victims by leading them to doubt their own sense of reality. Perpetrators try to preserve a facade of innocence and avoid taking responsibility for their acts by refusing to acknowledge their guilt.


2.  Attack: 

DARVO proponents frequently launch a counterattack against their accusers after engaging in denial. This assault may be physical, psychological, or emotional. Narcissists and other criminals may use methods like character assassination, threats, or intimidation to discredit and diminish the credibility of their victims. Perpetrators attempt to divert attention from their wrongdoing and retake control of the narrative by turning the spotlight onto their accusers and casting them as the aggressors.


3.  Reverse Victim and Offender: 

The last DARVO method is to switch the victim and offender roles. The story is twisted by those who commit the act to make themselves appear as the real victims and their victims as the ones who are committing the crimes. They could pretend to be offended or outraged, portraying themselves as defenceless targets of unfair allegations or persecution. By influencing people's opinions in this way, offenders want to gain sympathy and support, which will strengthen their hold on authority and control.

What Experts Say on DARVO Tactics

The problem of DARVO methods and its effects on victims of interpersonal violence and narcissistic abuse have been the subject of numerous studies and research publications. The 1997 publication "Understanding DARVO: Psychological Mechanisms and Implications for Victim Support" by Jennifer J. Freyd, which was published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, is regarded as a foundational work in this topic. The psychological bases of DARVO methods and their harmful impact on victims' well-being are covered by Freyd in this work.

Additionally, Robin Stern's 2018 book "The Gaslighting Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life" provides a thorough review of DARVO tactics and their prevalence in a variety of circumstances. Stern looks at the various ways in which criminals and narcissists use DARVO methods to gain control and influence over their victims. She also offers advice on how to spot and stop these manipulative tactics.

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The connection between DARVO techniques, coercive control, and domestic violence is further illuminated by research published in Lisa Aronson Fontes' book "Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship". Fontes draws attention to the part DARVO strategies play in maintaining abusive dynamics in close relationships and provides advice on how victims can take charge of their liberation from these cycles of control and manipulation.


The Devastating Impact of DARVO on Victims

There are severe and widespread consequences when people respond to DARVO methods, which stand for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Such manipulation frequently leaves its victims dealing with a plethora of psychological, emotional, and social fallout that has the potential to seriously ruin their lives.

  • Psychologically, sufferers feel confused and uncertain about themselves. They may begin to doubt their reality as a result of gaslighting and denial of their experiences, becoming confused about what is genuine and what isn't. One's mental health may suffer long-term consequences as a result of this decline in self-confidence.

  • Victims frequently experience feelings of emotional alienation and isolation. DARVO techniques cause victims to feel alone and isolated because the perpetrators not only downplay the victim's experiences but also sometimes target their character. The emotional scars caused by the manipulation may become more severe as a result of this isolation, which can intensify feelings of guilt and shame.

  • Socially, victims may struggle to seek support or disclose their experiences due to fear of not being believed or being further victimized. This can lead to a sense of social withdrawal and disconnection from others, compounding the trauma they have endured.

In summary, victims of DARVO methods experience an extensive variety of effects, including social isolation, emotional distress, and psychological instability. Acknowledging these consequences is crucial to aiding individuals who have experienced such manipulation on their path to recovery by offering them validation and support.


Healing for Survivors of DARVO Tactics

Survivors of DARVO tactics – Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender – face a challenging journey towards healing, but with resilience, self-care, and community support, they can reclaim their power and thrive once again. The secret is resilience.

Acknowledge your resilience in the face of manipulation. Engage in self-care routines that feed your body, mind, and soul. Give priority to the pursuits that make you happy and content, whether it be journaling, meditation, or time spent in nature.

Support from the community is essential. Be in the company of kind and caring people who understand you, validate your experiences, and provide you with unwavering support. Participate in internet forums or support groups to meet other survivors and talk about your experience.

Go for trauma-informed care. Professional assistance from therapists skilled in trauma recovery can offer priceless direction and healing. Make your mental health a top priority and seek out therapists who specialize in narcissistic abuse or interpersonal violence.

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Recall that recovery is a journey, and getting assistance when needed is acceptable. Additional help and direction can be obtained from resources including hotlines, internet forums, and neighbourhood support groups.

You're not alone on your journey to recovery if you've gone through the difficult experience of DARVO methods. Our counselors at Project C Foundation provide a kind, inviting environment where you can be understood and supported. We are here to support you whether you're looking for one-on-one counselling or a way to connect with other survivors. Make the first move in regaining your strength and finding hope by reaching out now. We're here to support you in thriving because you're a warrior, not simply a survivor.


Implications and Conclusion

Narcissists and criminals frequently use DARVO techniques, which emphasizes the critical need for more knowledge and instruction on this topic. People can empower themselves to spot and resist manipulation in their interpersonal relationships by learning the psychological mechanisms behind DARVO methods and identifying the warning indicators.

Furthermore, healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies, and victim support organizations play a crucial role in addressing the impact of DARVO tactics on victims and providing them with the necessary resources and support. By incorporating training on DARVO tactics into their programs and interventions, these entities can better equip individuals to navigate situations involving manipulation and abuse.

To sum up, DARVO methods are complicated and destructive patterns of conduct that narcissists and criminals employ to dominate and exploit their victims. By gaining an in-depth understanding of these strategies and their psychological ramifications, we can endeavor to establish a more secure and encouraging atmosphere for individuals impacted by interpersonal violence and abuse.

Written by Hana Angela

Edited by Virginia Helzainka


Aronson, L. 2015. Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship. New York: The Guilford Publications, Inc.

Freyd, J., and Harsey, S. 2020. Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender (DARVO): What is the influence on Perceived Perpetrator and Victim Credibility.  Journal of Aggression. Vol 29 (8). Pg 897-916.

Freyd, J., and Harsey, S. 2022. Defamation and DARVO. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. Vol 23 (5). Pg 481-489.

Freyd, J., Harsey, S., Zurbriggen, E. 2017. Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma. Vol 26 (6). Pg 644-663.

Stern, R. 2007. The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Other People Use to Control Your Life. Morgan Road Books.


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