Thursday, June 10, 2021

DARVO: The Toxic 3 Point Turn

 “I think a lot of what we learn about others isn’t what they tell us. It’s what we observe. People can tell us anything they want.”

― Iain Reid


When you watch a professional sporting event, you are watching the culmination of hours of practice and study. Teams employ scouts to observe their opponents in an attempt to gain insight as to their tendencies and behaviors.


Knowing how your opponent thinks, acts and executes will give you a tremendous advantage over them.


Using soccer as an example, if the goalie knows that a specific player will always try to kick a penalty to the low left corner, it will give the goalie a tremendous advantage when he is tasked with trying to save a penalty kick awarded to this individual.


When you learn about people, you can better anticipate their decisions and their actions.


Let’s say that Walter has an issue with time. He is habitually late. A co-worker who is unaware of Walter’s issues with punctuality will have a very different reaction to Walter being late than someone who is well aware of Walter’s lack of promptness.


Toxic individuals also have specific behaviors and patterns that they tend to resort to.


One of their common manipulation strategies is a 3 step process known as DARVO. This is an acronym which stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse the Victim with the Offender.


First they will deny the behavior or the wrongdoing within their behavior.

Then they will attack the one who is pointing out the wrongful behavior.

Finally, they will reverse the roles, claiming that they are in fact the victim whilst the one who is confronting their wrongdoings is actually the offender.


Here is an illustration of DARVO in action:

Famous male singer gets accused of sexual misconduct of a female:

1- Deny either the event or the severity of the event: “I didn’t do anything” or “I don’t understand why she is making a big deal out of nothing”

2- Attack: “She isn’t emotionally stable” or “She is doing this for money”

3- Reverse the Victim with the Offender: “I don’t know why she is trying to harm me like this. I have a wife and kids and this evil and vindictive woman enters my life and is trying to destroy my family”.


Sadly this works all too often.


Then there are the times when it gets used in a way that can silence both the accuser and those victims who have yet to come forward.


Example: Man of race X gets accused of racism against race Y

1- Deny: “I’m not a racist. I have plenty of friends of that race”

2- Attack: “Those people who are calling me a racist are haters who are trying to cause a rift where one doesn’t exist”

3- Reverse the Victim with the Offender: “I’m receiving so much online hate because I’m a member of race X and we live in a society which tries to harm people of my race”


Did you see what just happened in this latest example?


If I try to criticize the one accused of the racial comments, it will mean that I am a hater who is trying to cause a rift where one doesn’t exist and that I’m also part of a society who tries to harm members of race X.


It aims to silence people, and it sadly works on many.


Who are the ones who are most protected from a DARVO attack?


Research says that those are the ones who know about DARVO.


Knowledge is power, and the more you know about DARVO and other behavior patterns of toxic people, the less likely you are to be one of their victims.


Why? You may ask.


Just like advance knowledge of a hurricane enables you to properly prepare for the oncoming storm. So too the awareness of an imminent DARVO attack can empower you to properly protect yourself from the slings and arrows emanating from this toxic manipulator.



Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.


To speak with Yisroel about presenting at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at


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