DARVO is an acronym for "deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender". It refers to a reaction that alleged perpetrators of wrongdoing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior.[1] Some researchers and advocates have indicated that it can be as a common manipulation strategy of psychological abusers.[2][3][4] An abuser (or alleged abuser) denies the abuse ever took place, attacks the person that alleged abuse (often the victim) for attempting to hold the abuser (or alleged abuser) accountable for their actions, and claims that they are actually the victim in the situation, thus reversing what may be a reality 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.[2] The first stage of DARVO, denial, involves gaslighting.[3][4]

Jennifer 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]


Alleged examples of DARVO in public events include:

  • The behavior of R. Kelly during an interview related to criminal proceedings against him for sexual abuse of minors[6]
  • The behavior of former United States President Donald Trump in defending himself against sexual harassment allegations, as well as in defending himself against allegations of his other wrongdoings.[7][8][9][10]

In popular mediaEdit

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.[11] 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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Freyd, Jennifer J. (2021). "What is DARVO?". University of Oregon. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Rozsa, Matthew (July 8, 2021). "Trump wasn't just an abnormal figure—psychiatrists say his rhetoric caused real trauma". Salon.
  11. ^ "It's Called DARVO - South Park | South Park Studios US". South Park United States. Retrieved July 29, 2021.