DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior.
DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender.
This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility or even blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation. –Jennifer J. Freyd, What is DARVO?
While re-reading this article on Shrink4Men, I came upon a section which hit me as proof to my readers (who can read Tracy and Richard‘s bizarre, intimidating and remorseless e-mail to me in the “Now I’m Being Stalked” post, and how they’ve been trying to stalk and intimidate me online and off for the past few weeks) of which of us is telling the truth:
Of course, not everyone who denies wrong doing is engaging in DARVO. Many partners and exes of abusive women are accused of things they didn’t do or of things that never happened.
Naturally, when this happens, you deny the accusation and perhaps feel a little (or a lot) bewildered. How do you know if an individual’s denial is the truth or an instance of DARVO? Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24) proposes:
“It is important to distinguish types of denial, for an innocent person will probably deny a false accusation. Thus denial is not evidence of guilt. However, I propose that a certain kind of indignant self-righteousness, and overly stated denial, may in fact relate to guilt.
I hypothesize that if an accusation is true, and the accused person is abusive, the denial is more indignant, self-righteous and manipulative, as compared with denial in other cases.
Similarly, 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 lawsuits, 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. The attack will also likely focus on ad hominem instead of intellectual/evidential issues.
Finally, I propose that the 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 more the offender is held accountable, the more wronged the offender claims to be.”
The original paper (“Violations of Power, Adaptive Blindness and Betrayal Trauma Theory” by Jennifer J. Freyd) goes on to say:
The offender accuses those who hold him accountable of perpetrating acts of defamation, false accusations, smearing, etc. The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.
More relevant stuff:
The divorce process triggers these fears and pushes all of their hot buttons, which explains why many escalate their controlling and abusive behaviors during a divorce.
Divorce represents a final loss of control and means that their flaws and faults might be exposed to friends, family, mental health professionals and the court system. Most Cluster Bs fight tooth and nail against having their abusive traits and other nasty qualities exposed.
Now that you’re no longer together, you know too much about her and, therefore, must be discredited and destroyed so that no one will suspect that she’s actually the one with the problems. This is her logic.
…3. High-conflict people feed off conflict and chaos. It gives them a buzz. For many, the only way they know how to relate to others is through aggression, blame and playing the victim. Once it ends, what does she have left? Nothing.
4. Oppositional withholding. This is more leftover baggage from your marriage. Many of these women are withholding partners. Meaning, if there’s something you really want, she doesn’t want you to have it.
The more you want something, no matter how insignificant and small, the more she finds reasons that you shouldn’t have it or actively obstructs you from getting it.
In this respect, these women are like oppositional, defiant toddlers. The more you want to wrap up the divorce; the more she digs in her heels and tries to delay it. –Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Divorce and high conflict people: borderlines, narcissists, histrionics, sociopaths and other persuasive blamers
Sociopaths blame others for their bad behaviors and do not take personal responsibility for their actions. At their core, they are filled with rage, which is often split off and projected onto their victims.
Sociopaths have poor behavioral and emotional controls and can be impulsive. They often alternate rage and abuse with small expressions of love and approval to keep their victims under their control.
Sociopaths lack boundaries and do not care how their behavior affects others. They may become enraged and/or desperate when their victims try to enforce boundaries on their abusive behaviors. They have difficulty maintaining friendships, and, is it any wonder given how they treat others?
They typically end relationships and/or try destroying former friends who have seen behind their masks.
Some may have long-term friendships, but they either seem to be long-distance or friendships with incredibly damaged individuals with low self-esteem who admire the sociopath, i.e., sycophants. –Dr. Tara, Rethinking female sociopathy, part one
Do they do this on purpose? The expert, Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, has some insight into how NPD’s/BPD’s think:
Basically, she doesn’t have a James Bond evil villain-esque plan for world domination; everyday is a battle to protect herself from being assaulted by the truth of what a damaged, flawed being she is.
These women create a distorted bubble of un-reality in which they are wonderful, misunderstood creatures who have to put up with lesser beings like you, me and everyone else on the planet.
Verbally abusing you and making you believe you’re a jerk is how she keeps her version of reality undisputed and household tyranny alive.
She may know that her behavior is hurtful, but doesn’t care. She feels justified because you “deserve” it for some imagined or minor affront to her ego. However, I wouldn’t say this is “premeditated” or even conscious. It’s instinctual survival behavior.
She has learned how to manipulate you, others, and her environment through trial and error, like a child who has discovered cause and effect.
…These women see the world in terms of rewards and punishments—much like a 5-year old.
Calling a NPD/BPD’s behavior “premeditated” gives her credit for a level of self-awareness I just don’t think she possesses.
Also like a 5-year old, these women are totally egocentric. They believe the world revolves around them, that everyone else is like them, and motivated by the same desires and fears.
As for her threatening divorce; you should be so lucky! Here’s the most crazy thing about these women; they do everything in their power to drive even the most patient, tolerant, and forgiving soul away, yet their greatest fear is abandonment.
Because of her egocentrism, if her greatest fear is abandonment, then you must also be deathly afraid of abandonment. —Is a Borderline or Narcissist Woman’s Emotionally Abusive Behavior Premeditated?
Also, “Narcissists/sociopaths do not feel remorse for their hurtful and/or criminal actions and believe that their targets deserve to be screwed” (Do Narcissists Feel Remorse?).
Also, why would I make up a story like this? Why would I expose myself to the Net as emotionally vulnerable if it were all a lie? Why would I tell all these personal things, exposing my gullibility and mistakes, for a lie?
I keep wanting to remove some things from my story, things I had only told my husband before this. So I start thinking, “What if my family/friends read this,” but keep these things in because they’re a crucial part of the story. Why would I expose myself like that for a lie?
And especially, what would be the purpose of lying about people, whose names I refuse to even reveal on the Net? Why would I research narcissism, BPD (borderline personality disorder) and abuse in the first place, if not to try to figure out what the heck was going on here?
I never heard of BPD until I began googling about abusers during my grief, did not know much about narcissists, was not aware of the connection between NPD/BPD and abusers.
After I began to suspect BPD/NPD based on Tracy’s behavior, which fit the traits and behaviors I kept reading about, Todd told me that according to Richard, BPD is indeed in her family. As the author of Narcissists Suck put it,
I am sure there are people who can justify leaving a relationship based on simply calling on incompatibility as justification. My blog isn’t for those people. They don’t need to read what I have to say.
In fact, this person is very unlikely to go to Google to type in some search in order to demystify what they’ve gone through or are going through. They have simply shrugged off the parasite and moved on. No damage done. The person you describe has likely never even seen my blog. —Calling Narcissists Evil
My Trip to Oz and Back is much like my own blogs, an account of two years spent by the writer with her girlfriend, which was actually a 50-page letter sent by the author to her ex-girlfriend.
That was in the late 90s, when the author had never heard of borderline personality disorder, so there had been no official diagnosis for her to point to. But the more she learned about BPD, the more she knew her ex-girlfriend had it, so she posted this letter to help others who are dealing with someone with BPD.
It has been on the Web since 2003, and by November 2006 had received 53,000 hits. As the author wrote on the main page,
Writing this was cathartic. It doubled as a form of therapy. I actually did send the letter; however, I doubt that it had much effect. The more I learned about BPD, the more I realized that the likelihood of this person ever really understanding, was probably close to zero….
Why would I want to put such a personal document online? There are several reasons. First, I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in a relationship with a person with BPD. There are many books and websites on BPD, but relatively few from a significant other’s point of view.
Second, I am hoping that someone out there might read a bit and identify with it. When one is in a difficult situation, sometimes just hearing about another person’s similar experience can be affirming–as in, “I’m not the only one.”
Finally, I consider myself a success story–see the final chapter, the epilogue. My wish is to give hope to others.
Like me, the author changed names and identifying details. This is to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.
It’s the most baffling part of Richard and Tracy threatening a lawsuit, because I never used and never intend to use their real names in these blogs–and anything I would tell my priest about this, would be the truth, and not in any way actionable.
Joyful Alive Woman also wrote about her abusive, narcissist, female former friend.
In searching the Net for other people who have been threatened and accused of lying/defamation for telling the truth about abuse, I found this by Christina Enevoldsen:
When I was in my early forties, I stood before a group of people and named my father as my abuser.
It felt good to let go of the secret, but when I went to bed that night, I felt horrible guilt for “betraying” my dad. I heard a little girl’s voice tell me that I was going to get in trouble.
I knew that was a voice from the past and assured myself that I hadn’t done anything wrong, but deep down, I believed I deserved to be punished for telling.
I didn’t know what the “punishment” might be until I got a letter from my mom. For years, she’d accepted that I’d been sexually abused, but when I uncovered my father as my primary abuser, she accused me of lying:
I am writing to inform you that your malicious slander of your father has not gone unnoticed. You have built an entire world out of your fantasy. In dreaming up your sexual abuse you have maligned your father’s character and deeply hurt his heart and mine. Your lies shall surely catch up with you.
I want you to know that if you have any plans of writing a book, we will sue you and anyone who has anything to do with it. Your defamation of your father’s character will stop. You will not enjoy one penny from any book published about this gross lie.
And I should let you know that we filed some of your inflammatory statements about your father and me, along with your threat against me, with the Mesa Police Dept.
And I will always be your mother whether you recognize me or not as such.
Mary Schamer —I Blamed Myself for my Abuse Since I Didn’t Tell
Comment #30 on this blog post, by “PS,” reads:
The letter from your mother was chilling… and reminded me so much of the threatening email I got from my brother several years ago.
This after he’d spent the better part of a year cyberstalking and harassing me when I confronted him and my parents over the abuse (my parents knew and did nothing to help me, in fact my mother labeled it “normal experimentation” and tried to convince me “all families fool around”), and after I told the rest of the family (who never responded and, from what I heard, sided with them, so they’re no different than any other abusive family structure).
He told me in his email he was going to contact a lawyer to “seek remedy” and accused *me* of being the one harassing him, told me that my letter was a “poison pen” and essentially called me a liar, among other things.
I turned the tables on him at the advice of two attorneys and called the police on him. They said they couldn’t pursue charges as he lived in another state, but they were willing to call him and tell him to stop contacting me.
I don’t know what they told him, but they must have scared him good, because the most he was able to muster was “I’ll stop bothering her if she stops harassing me.” Outside of when he notified me – politely – that our grandfather died two years ago, I haven’t heard hide nor hair since.
I read more of Christina’s story:
My next stage in disclosure was speaking to a group of about forty people, many of whom knew my father. I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be, but I felt ready to share it, no matter their response.
I had enough of a support system, within myself and with others, so I was secure and didn’t need anything from them. I just wanted the opportunity to share the truth. They were overwhelmingly supportive.
I was validated by the group, but when I went home that night I heard a little girl’s voice in my head saying, “You told,” in an accusing tone. I recognized that the little girl was the little girl inside of me.
She was the one who was warned not to tell. She was the one who was afraid and felt threatened.
But as my adult self, I wasn’t under my father’s power anymore and he couldn’t do anything to hurt me. So I comforted myself with that and validated my progress—and continued to tell.
After that, I published the story of my abuse history online. I wanted it to be public. I wanted the whole world to see it.
I wasn’t afraid of my dad finding out. I wanted my parents to read what I wrote. I wanted them to know I was talking about it. I felt empowered and strong. —How Do I Disclose My Abuse?
I believed that there was a rule that I was allowed to share a bad experience with one or two people at the most and then I had to stop talking about it or I was “just being a victim”. Yet I was compelled to keep talking about it even with the internal accusations and the guilt that it caused.
I was warned that “dwelling” on things doesn’t serve any purpose—that it would just make me feel worse.
But I was already depressed and it wasn’t from talking about my abuse. I was depressed because my trauma and the feelings that went with it were locked up inside of me.
As I started to see some benefit from talking about my abuse, I started to question the limited talking “rule”. —Why Do I Talk About My Childhood Abuse Over and Over?
Patty: When I first read a survivor’s story from a book, I cried for days. I was so relieved to know that I was not the only one. Her abuse was different, but the trauma from the abuse was the same as mine.
Even though I didn’t know her and never spoke to her, I felt so close to her. As I continued to read about her abuse, I grew stronger. I was no longer alone.
For a period of time the only books I read were stories about survivors; I didn’t want to read about healing. I wanted to become a part of a group of survivors. There were no survivor groups where I lived and there were no computers at the time, so the only connection I had was with the survivors who so graciously shared their stories.
It was life changing for me. I continue to read survivors stories because it continuously brings me into the circle.
Jennifer: I wasn’t able to admit that I was a victim of sexual abuse until I started reading other people’s stories. They described the same types of things that happened to me as a kid. The only difference was that they had a label to define their experiences.
I had always thought of it as “stuff that happened”, stuff that I didn’t think about, let alone talk about. It never occurred to me until then to attach the word abuse to my memories. If I hadn’t read the accounts of other survivors, I would most likely still be in denial today.
I am so grateful to all the brave men and women that have opened up and shared their stories. They have paved the road for me and future generations to tell our stories and begin the healing process. —Why Do I Need to Tell?
I felt like poison was being spewed at me but at the same time, I was surprised how calm and rational I was able to remain. I refused to accept the abuse and told them as much.
I was able to stand up for myself in a way that I never could have before I began to heal. I could see that what they were doing to me wasn’t my problem.
I didn’t ask for it or deserve it. I was just the current target but, they soon discovered, no longer an easy one.
As difficult as it is to realize that some people can no longer be in my life, if they can’t give me the basic respect that I deserve as a human being—they don’t belong there.
I am the first to admit that I still have a long way to go. I have breakthroughs and setbacks.
In times like these I can see that I have made progress and it feels good. I am no longer powerless. I am exposing the lies for what they are and in the process, reclaiming my self-worth.
I didn’t deserve to be abused then and I don’t deserve to be abused now. I am worth just as much as anyone else and that knowledge gives me the power to reclaim my life. –Penny Smith, Standing Up for Myself: Reclaiming My Self-Worth
Post by Prozac Blogger:
Major Breakthrough: Exposing the Truth
I will NOT be silent.
The emotional abuser will play up the “pathos” in an attempt to garner sympathy, all the while, continuing to (cyber)stalk his ex, making jokes about things he could do to upset her, and invading her personal space and boundaries …
(almost all the Cyberpaths we have exposed have gone to their target’s personal sites, boards on which they post, etc. saying they were “just protecting THEMSELVES against their Target’s relentless abuse. Turnabout!! and projection, readers.
Prime Example: Campbell filing a frivolous lawsuit against his victim that was thrown out!)
Like physical abusers, emotional abusers will often stalk their former partners. The stalker’s objective is often to control her through cultivating fear rather than making direct or specific threats, or confronting her.
This is a subtle form of terrorism, because abuse victims are often very emotionally (if not physically) afraid of their abusers once they wake up. ….
People who ARE capable of genuinely loving you in a healthy and safe way, DON’T WANT TO HURT YOU, and do not DELIBERATELY DO THINGS TO HURT YOU.
They don’t play on your insecurities and they don’t wage psychological warfare on you. They don’t blame YOU for all the relationship problems, and they don’t fabricate problems just so you can be the scapegoat. –Natalie P., Emotional Abusers–The Heart of Cyberpaths
This post from the Whispers of God blog goes into the issue of how to tell when someone is falsely accused of abuse. In her context, she’s talking about child abuse/molestation. But I can imagine this applies to those accused of bullying as well, such as the psychological and verbal abuse I was put through by Richard and Tracy.
Richard would be the one who claimed to love me like a sister, that I was “very dear” to him, but I have accused him of being a party to the bullying, of even threatening Jeff in June/July 2010, of manipulating and using me in 2007 and then betraying me in 2010, letting Tracy believe I was guilty when he knew I was innocent. Also, Tracy claimed to Jeff on 7/1/10 that they “valued” our friendship.
As WOG says, if someone you loved accused you of abusing her, and you knew you were innocent, you would be desperate to talk to her and sort things out, would be visibly shaken.
Yet I have received absolutely no such communication from Richard, only an e-mail from him and/or Tracy accusing me of defamation, ridiculing my pain, expressing no remorse whatsoever, and even showing no remorse over Richard’s criminal conviction.
WOG, too, is being threatened with a libel suit for speaking out about how she’s been abused, and you can read about this in her various posts.
Disclaimer: References to Shrink4Men were made before I knew anything about MRAs. I just thought they were against abuse; I didn’t know about the sexism. Use at your own risk.