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DARVO (an acronym for "deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender") is a reaction that perpetrators of wrongdoing, such as sexual offenders may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior.[1] Some researchers indicate that it is a common manipulation strategy of psychological abusers.[2][3][4]

As the acronym suggests, the common steps involved are 1) the abuser denies the abuse ever took place, 2) when confronted with evidence, the abuser then attacks the person that was abused (and/or the person's family and/or friends) for attempting to hold the abuser accountable for their actions, and finally 3) the abuser claims that they are actually the victim in the situation, thus reversing the positions of victim and offender.[2][4] It often involves not just "playing the victim" but also victim blaming.[3]


The acronym and the analysis it is based on are the work of the psychologist Jennifer Freyd, who wrote about it in 1997.[2] The first stage of DARVO, denial, involves gaslighting.[3][4]

Freyd writes:

... I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower's credibility, and so on. The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender accountable. ... [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. ... The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.[5]

Usage and effectiveness[edit]

Freyd stated that DARVO is frequently used and effective, although the number of people who are inclined to believe a DARVO response decreases once they understand the tactic.[6]


Alleged examples of DARVO include:

In popular media[edit]

In the 2019 episode "Season Finale" of South Park, Randy Marsh is arrested for destroying home-growers' marijuana. Randy calls President Garrison for legal advice.[13] The President explains to him DARVO and role-plays how to use it. When Randy attempts to do so, the policemen he tries it on inform him that the tactic will not work, as Randy is not the President.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Syal, Rajeev (June 2, 2022). "Why did the Depp-Heard libel outcomes differ in the US and UK?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 3, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Freyd, J.J. (February 1997). "II. Violations of Power, Adaptive Blindness and Betrayal Trauma Theory" (PDF). Freyd Dynamics Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 1, 2020. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Harsey, Sarah (June 1, 2017). "Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame". Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 26 (6): 644–663. doi:10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777.
  4. ^ a b c Wakefield, M. (March 30, 2020). "How Narcissists Use DARVO to Escape Accountability". Narcissistic Abuse Rehab. Archived from the original on January 10, 2021. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  5. ^ Freyd, J.J. (February 1997). "II. Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory" (PDF). Feminism & Psychology. 7 (1): 22–32. doi:10.1177/0959353597071004. S2CID 143672491. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 1, 2020. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  6. ^ a b https://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/a-case-against-forgiveness-1.4875111/how-to-spot-a-pattern-of-denials-in-the-metoo-movement-1.4880605. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Dampier, Cindy (March 7, 2019). "R. Kelly's CBS meltdown has a name, says researcher: 'That's DARVO'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  8. ^ Fitzgerald, Louise F.; Freyd, Jennifer J. (December 20, 2017). "Trump's DARVO defense of harassment accusations". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on May 8, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
  9. ^ Freyd, Jennifer J. (2021). "What is DARVO?". University of Oregon. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  10. ^ Vialle-Giancotti, Cynthia (December 13, 2021). "You've been DARVOed and you don't even know it". The Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Stanford University.
  11. ^ Rozsa, Matthew (July 8, 2021). "Trump wasn't just an abnormal figure—psychiatrists say his rhetoric caused real trauma". Salon.
  12. ^ Özbek, Egemen (2018). "The Destruction of the Monument to Humanity: Historical Conflict and Monumentalization". International Public History. 1 (2). doi:10.1515/iph-2018-0011. S2CID 166208121.
  13. ^ "It's Called DARVO - South Park | South Park Studios US". South Park United States. Retrieved July 29, 2021.