DARVO: The Sneaky Manipulation Tactic You Need to Know About

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We are OK to pretend that abuse doesn’t exist, but what we don’t know is how many ways it does exist and impacts us every moment. Every abusive situation is different; what looks like abuse to others might look like a normal life situation to many. This kind of illusion only comes close to being true when the victim of abuse confronts their abuser, only to be met with a confusing mix of denial, blame, and even accusations. 

This experience, unfortunately common, can be an example of DARVO – an acronym for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. It is a manipulation tactic often used by abusers to avoid taking responsibility. DARVO is a chameleon-like strategy, morphing to fit specific situations, leaving the victims feeling disoriented and questioning their reality. 

Today, we’re exploring DARVO, its meaning, what it looks like in action, how it impacts well-being, and how you can resist and respond to DARVO response.

Related: Feeling Delirious? How To Deal With Delirium Symptoms & Cope With It?

DARVO: What Is It? 

Psychologist Dr. Jennifer J. Freyd first coined this term – DARVO – in the 1990s while studying the impact of childhood sexual abuse. She observed a common pattern where abusers, instead of acknowledging their actions, would deny the abuse occurred, and attack the victim’s credibility, portraying themselves as victims. 

While this was initially identified in the context of abuse, the DARVO manipulation tactic extends beyond the scope of abuse. This response can be used in any situation where anyone seeks to avoid responsibility and accountability for their actions. 

Let’s understand what DARVO means in real-time situations; 

1. Deny 

The abuser denies ever doing anything wrong. They might even flat-out deny the event happened, downplay its severity, or try to explain it away with justifications. 

2. Attack 

Instead of addressing the accusation, the abuser goes on the offensive. They might even attack the victim’s credibility, memory, or motivations. This could involve name-calling, guilt-tripping, or even issuing threats. 

3. Reverse Victim and Offender

The abuser flips the script and begins portraying themselves as one of the victims of the situation. They might claim the victim is “overreacting” “crazy” or “making things up” to deny all claims of wrongdoings. 

Some real-time examples of DARVO can include; 

In the workplace, you point out a coworker’s mistake. They deny making the error and then accuse you of micromanaging and creating a toxic work environment
In friendship, you express your hurt feelings after an argument. Your friend denies saying anything wrong, then calls you sensitive and tries to guilt-trip you for bringing up the issue. 
In an online discussion, you challenge someone’s biased post. They dismiss your opinions, call you a troll, and claim they are being silenced for their unpopular opinion. 

DARVO in Action… 

DARVO is a very fluid tactic, but here are some common factors you need to watch out for; 

Gaslighting: Manipulating the situation to make you question your memory and reality 
Victim-playing: Portraying oneself as the one being wronged, often using emotional manipulation
Deflection: Moving the focus away from the issue at hand by introducing irrelevant topics or attacking the victim’s character 
Anger and Rage: Becoming aggressive or using intimidation tactics to silence someone

The people or groups who are most likely to resort to DARVO can include people with personality disorders and those with a tendency to bully and abuse. Others can include; 

Narcissistic abusers or people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) 
Abusive bosses and colleagues 
Abusive parents or in-laws 
Gaslighters 
Law enforcement 
College and universities
Financial corporations as a part of financial abuse 

The Impact of DARVO on Mental Well-Being 

Being subjected to this sneaky manipulation tactic can have a significant impact on your well-being. It can lead to issues such as; 

1. Self-Doubt:

You might begin to constantly question yourself and your version of events and memories, casting a shadow of self-doubt. This can lower your self-esteem and confidence in yourself with time. 

2. Anxiety and Stress:

When you’re a victim of DARVO, you constantly live with stress and feel on edge, worried about the next accusation and where it will come from. This constant stress and pressure can worsen your anxiety. 

3. Depression:

DARVO response can also make you feel hopeless and helpless about getting out and responding to this tactic. This kind of stress and feelings of helplessness in the face of manipulation can become a breeding ground for depression and its symptoms. 

4. Social Isolation:

When your abuser constantly resorts to DARVO, you feel an urge to cut contact with your family and friends. You become withdrawn and isolate yourself from social events to avoid further DARVO situations. 

Living with constant manipulation – sneaky or not – can be exhausting and draining. If you suspect you’re being targeted by DARVO by a partner, friend, or coworker, then prioritize getting help and taking care of your well-being. 

How to Respond to DARVO Response? 

To respond and resist a DARVO manipulation, you can get help in these ways; 

1. Stay Calm 

Don’t get drawn into your abuser’s emotional outbursts. Maintain your calm and composure and focus on the facts. Do not let the other person’s emotions taint you and make you doubt yourself any more than you already do. 

2. Set Boundaries 

Make it clear that you won’t tolerate the kind of behavior that is being portrayed. Be clear about the consequences that will follow if your abuser continues the DARVO tactic. You can state things like, “I refuse to engage in this conversation if you keep attacking me.” 

3. Document Everything 

If you can, keep records and document everything about the interaction. Emails, texts, and witness accounts can be a good place to start. This collection of evidence will not only help you figure out how to move on next but also help solidify your memory. 

4. Seek Support 

Talk to a trusted person – a friend, family member, or a counselor. You can also reach out to a support group for help. Sharing your experiences with someone you trust will validate your feelings and also help you get valuable guidance on what to do next. 

5. Disengage When Needed 

If the situation worsens, know that it’s OK to walk away. Make sure you already have a safe place you can return to and then make your exit. Prioritize your safety and mental health above all. 

6. Limit Your Interactions

Once you’re out, then depending on the relationship, you might find that it’s OK to either minimize or absolutely cut off contact with your abuser who’s using the DARVO tactic to keep you with them. 

Wrap Up… 

DARVO is a powerful manipulation tactic that can have an equally powerful effect on your mental well-being. Knowing the signs and techniques of DARVO can be the first step in resisting its influence. By staying calm, setting boundaries, and seeking help, you can protect yourself and your well-being from the manipulative tactic called DARVO

You’re not alone! Many resources are available for you to find help, get out of a bad situation, and build a new and happy life. 

I hope this article helped you understand what DARVO is, what it looks like in action, and how you can respond to the DARVO response. 

Take Care!

The post DARVO: The Sneaky Manipulation Tactic You Need to Know About appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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