DARVO is a manipulative tactic used by people when they feel threatened or are confronted about their actions and is tactic used by narcissistic/abusive people.

It allows the perpetrator to

  • avoid responsibility
  • silence the victim
  • maintain power and control
  • preserve their own self-image

It is a form of emotional abuse. It’s gaslighting and playing victim.

The victim now starts to doubt themselves and the situation feeling confused, guilty and even ashamed. This undermines their ability to assert their rights and boundaries

DARVO stands for:-

D = Denies responsibility

A = Attacks you

R = Reverses roles of

V = Victim (you) and

O = Offender (the abuser)

When confronting their toxic, manipulative, abusive, or hurtful actions they will resort to DARVO:-


 They will deny their harmful behaviour or downplay or minimise its severity

  • “It was just a joke.”
  • “I didn’t mean it that way. You are taking it the wrong way”
  • “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The purpose of this is to: –

  • completely reject any responsibility
  • refuse to acknowledge that they did anything wrong
  • gaslight you – making you doubt your reality
  • undermine your credibility


 Can resort to verbal abuse:-

  • personal attacks – name calling
  • belittling you eg “You’re blowing things way out of proportion.”
  • shaming you eg “What kind of person accuses their own mother of this?”
  • humiliating you eg “You’re such a liar.”

The purpose of this is to: –

  • attack your credibility
  • seed doubt into your motivation for confronting their behaviour
  • discredit and undermine your character
  • divert attention from their own actions
  • to maintain their power and control over you

Reverse (Victim – Offender)

They reverse the narrative of victim and offender by:

  • twisting the narrative
  • distorts the facts – lying with half truths
  • refusing to take any accountability for their behaviour
  • projecting blame back onto you
  • avoiding conversations about their behaviour by deflect onto a different topic relating to your behaviour
  • playing the victim and not the offender (which they are)

The purpose of this is to: –

  • manipulate your emotions
  • exploit your vulnerabilities
  • elicit sympathy from others by playing victim eg “I can’t believe you would make up stuff just to hurt me.”
  • to shift the blame and project their behaviour back onto you
  • to regain control over the narrative and turns the focus away from their own actions
  • disempowers you
  • makes you doubt your own reality
  • to protect their fragile ego
  • evade further accountability
  • not validate your emotions, thoughts and beliefs

DARVO is a highly manipulative, toxic and insidious abusive tactic.

Reverse victimhood with DARVO can have profound negative effects eliciting a maintenance of power and control for the abuser whilst disempowering the victim.

A tactic you can use to stop getting trapped in the drama cycle of this abusive pattern of behaviour is the JADE principle

Don’t Justify

Don’t Argue

Don’t Defend

Don’t Explain

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