I’ve long been familiar with being on the receiving end of DARVO, but never had the words to explain it so succinctly. In the realm of psychological manipulation, I think few tactics are as insidious and disorienting as DARVO. It stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender," a concept first identified by psychologist Jennifer Freyd. It's a defensive strategy used by perpetrators of wrongdoing, particularly those accused of abuse, to deflect blame, invert reality, and maintain power and control.
Denial is the abuser’s first line of defence. When confronted with evidence of their misconduct, abusers outright DENY the behaviour—often delivered with such confidence and composure that it can be incredibly persuasive to others. Following denial, perpetrators ATTACK the credibility of the accuser. This can be direct or subtle, with the abuser often portraying the accuser as mentally unstable, attention seeking, or manipulative. Finally, the most disorienting part of DARVO is the reversal of roles, where the PERPETRATOR claims they are the actual VICTIM. This can involve expressing hurt feelings, seeking sympathy, or claiming they are the ones who have been wronged.
I think that what makes DARVO so effective is that it exploits our inclination to give people the benefit of the doubt, it weaponises the victim's vulnerabilities, and intentionally obscures the truth. The reversal of victim and offender can be so convincing that it not only causes others to question the victim's claim, but can also make victims question their own reality and sanity. I am “fortunate” in that my early childhood experiences taught me to trust in myself, so that I never questioned my own sanity or reality. Yet it was incredibly isolating; knowing some things were not right but not having the words to explain it, so that for some years I self harmed as a coping mechanism.
Years of reflection have helped me understand that the ‘heart’ of abuse is really quite simple: it thrives in the shadows of ignorance. Naturally, this makes illuminating knowledge one of our strongest weapons against it. The second is calling that sh*t out when we see it 🏹
#Abuse #PTSD #PTSDSupportAndRecovery #ComplexPosttraumaticStressDisorder #Anxiety #Trauma #MyalgicEncephalomyelitis #ChronicFatigue #Fibromyalgia #Depression #Selfharm #Dermatillomania #Trichotillomania #Selflove #Selfcare