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  • Writer's pictureChristian Essex

What is DARVO?

Updated: May 22, 2023

Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender

Some people employ the psychological defense mechanism known as D.A.R.V.O. to avoid accepting accountability for their actions and behaviors. Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender are the letters in the acronym. Relationships can be significantly impacted by this subtle and insidious conduct, especially when there has been emotional or psychological abuse.

The importance of talking about D.A.R.V.O. is that it helps people identify manipulative and controlling tendencies in relationships and how to react to them. Although D.A.R.V.O. frequently involves a subtle shifting of blame and responsibility, it can be particularly challenging to recognize since the victim may feel lost, helpless, and unclear of what is happening. The promotion of healthier and more respectful relationships can be achieved by raising D.A.R.V.O. knowledge and understanding among individuals, communities, and organizations.

If you or someone you know is suffering from psychological abuse or manipulations, please consider further study with this fantastic resource, "Healing from Hidden Abuse" (paid link).

What exactly is D.A.R.V.O.?

Some people utilize the manipulative behavior pattern known as D.A.R.V.O. to escape accountability for their deeds and conduct. It is a complicated behavior made up of three unique parts:

Denying that the act in question occurred or that it was as detrimental or hurtful as the victim says is the first step in the D.A.R.V.O. process. This may entail gaslighting the victim or giving them the impression that their reality perceptions are erroneous.

The second D.A.R.V.O. element entails attacking the victim or making false accusations against them. This can include blaming the victim for the behavior or for making things worse, as well as charging the victim with lying or exaggerating the behavior.

Reverse Victim and Offender: The final D.A.R.V.O. element entails switching the victim and offender roles such that the perpetrator assumes the victim's position and the victim takes the offender's place. This may entail painting the perpetrator as the innocent or victimized party and the victim as the one doing the harm or acting unreasonably.

Examples of D.A.R.V.O. in Relationships

  • A partner who accuses their spouse of being jealous and anxious after they deny inappropriate behavior that causes distress or infidelity.

  • A supervisor who denies verbally abusing a worker during a meeting and then says the worker is being overly sensitive or exaggerating the incident.

  • A parent who accuses their child of being ungrateful or difficult after denying any neglect or abuse they may have shown them.

D.A.R.V.O. is a manipulative behavior pattern that, in general, can negatively affect relationships by undermining self-esteem, trust, and emotional health. Promoting wholesome and respectful relationships begins with recognizing and dealing with D.A.R.V.O.

How to Recognize D.A.R.V.O.

D.A.R.V.O. contains subtle manipulations and shifting of blame and responsibility, making its identification very difficult. However there are some warning signs and symptoms that suggest D.A.R.V.O. is present in a relationship:

  • The offender disputes the fact that their activity took place or downplays how serious it was.

  • The offender attributes the victim's conduct or worsening of the situation to the victim.

  • The offender claims that the victim is lying or exaggerating about the behavior.

  • While painting the victim as the offender or instigator, the perpetrator presents themselves as the victim or innocent person.

  • The victim is left feeling unclear, guilty, or bewildered about what transpired.

How to Address D.A.R.V.O.

It's crucial to take aggressive action if you think D.A.R.V.O. is happening in your relationship. The following are some methods for addressing and possibly handling D.A.R.V.O.:

Be aware of the behavior: Recognizing that D.A.R.V.O. is happening is the first step in responding to it. This can entail examining previous exchanges or circumstances and determining the methods in which blame and responsibility were transferred.

Establish limits: As soon as you realize D.A.R.V.O. is happening, it's critical to establish firm limits with the offender. This could involve expressing your own thoughts and emotions about the circumstances, while refusing to accept accountability for the offender’s actions.

Request assistance: Being abused by D.A.R.V.O. can be difficult, emotionally draining, and potentially cause long term emotional and mental damage. It's crucial to ask for aid from dependable friends or family members and to think about getting professional assistance from a therapist or counselor.

Self-care is advisable: Managing D.A.R.V.O. can be difficult on your emotional health. By doing things you enjoy, taking breaks from the situation when necessary, and looking for uplifting interactions and experiences, you can practice self-care.

While tackling D.A.R.V.O., it's crucial to seek expert assistance in addition to these tactics. The effects of D.A.R.V.O. on your life and relationships can be managed with the help of a therapist or counselor, who can also offer support, advice, and resources. You may encourage better and more respectful relationships by being aware of D.A.R.V.O. and taking proactive measures to address it.


The manipulative behavior pattern known as D.A.R.V.O. can have a big impact on relationships and a person’s mental and emotional state. D.A.R.V.O. offenders can undermine their victims' trust, self-esteem, and emotional well-being by rejecting, assaulting, and reversing victim and offender roles.

Setting limits, getting help, and taking care of oneself are proactive responses to the warning signs and symptoms of D.A.R.V.O. When coping with D.A.R.V.O., it is also essential to get professional assistance from a therapist or counselor because managing this habit on your own can be difficult and emotionally taxing. Remember that communication, trust, and respect for one another are the foundations of all healthy and respectful relationships.

If you or someone you know is suffering from psychological abuse or manipulations, please consider further study with this fantastic resource, "Healing from Hidden Abuse" (paid link).

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