top of page
  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

DARVO: The #1 Covert Tactic Used by the Narcissist & Flying Monkeys

What is DARVO? According to, “DARVO is an acronym for Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim, and Offender. It is a defense mechanism used by manipulators to evade accountability for the abuse they inflict on others. It is a blame-shifting tactic used for gaslighting in the context of emotional abuse.”

The term was first presented in a 1997 article by Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and founder of the Center for Institutional Courage. She refers to DARVO as betrayal trauma.

Dr. Freyd stated, “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 – or the whistleblower – into an alleged offender.”

Denial is used by the narcissist and flying monkeys. It is abuse by proxy. Typically, they deny your own reality. They claim:

  • I didn’t do anything wrong. (Denial & selective amnesia.)

  • I don't know what you're talking about. (Denial & selective amnesia.)

  • It never happened, but if it did, it wasn’t that bad. (Deflecting, denial, & minimizing.)

At the local level, this strategy is common among perpetrators of sexual offenses, psycho-emotional abuse, and domestic abuse. DARVO is a regular feature of coercive and controlling behavior.

This form of coercive control is devastating for survivors of domestic violence – not only because of the toll it takes on them, but because of the lack of accountability by the narcissist and flying monkeys.

Who is impacted by DARVO?

  • Survivors who confront their abuser.

  • Whistleblowers & truth seekers.

  • Socially vulnerable individuals or groups, such as women, children, and minorities are more likely to be targeted for DARVO compared to men. However, men are not exempt from experiencing narcissistic abuse and DARVO.

DARVO is a way that a narcissist and flying monkeys gaslights people, especially the scapegoat. They shift the blame onto the scapegoat or the black sheep of the family.

At the core root of DARVO is gaslighting and betrayal. Gaslighting is a strategy where a person attacks the intuition or truth of another, making that person feel crazy. It’s a covert tactic where the offenders take the focus off of themselves and places the focus on the other, the scapegoat or black sheep of the family.

Remember this important fact. Betrayal is never by our enemies. Rather, betrayal will always be by those who are within our close circle. Betrayal is by those who we have loved and trusted. Betrayal is by our parents, siblings, relative, friend, spouse, intimate partner, or co-worker. This is why it cuts deeply and hurts badly.

Let’s Break Down What DARVO Looks Like:

D in DARVO stands for DENY. Typically, this relationship dynamic starts with the you suspecting something is wrong. You share your suspicions with the narcissist and/or flying monkeys. Your suspicions could be direct evidence (pictures, text messages, online profiles) or your intuition (feeling like something is “off” with the narcissist or flying monkeys), and your personal experiences with the toxic emotional vampires.

There are big discrepancies in their actions, behaviors, and words. If you mention your suspicions to them, it will only be met with denial and deception. They will accuse you of imagining things.

This leads to the A in the DARVO dynamic: ATTACK. After their denial, the narcissist and flying monkeys will make an attack. It could be verbal, physical, or both. This could be subtle, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about – I love you so much I couldn’t even imagine doing __________,” or not so subtle, “What’s wrong with you? You’ve got serious trust issues.Either way, the blame gets shifted to YOU.

After being attacked, R in the DARVO dynamic stand for: REVERSE. We can see that the narcissist and flying monkeys (FM) are now starting to shift attention from themselves to the scapegoat. The original suspicion becomes clouded now as the cunning narc and FM move into the victim role. They love to blame-shift, accusing you of being the perpetrator.

As the narcissist shifts roles, they have a full-blown pity party saying they are the VICTIM, which stands for the “V” in DARVO. The narcissist is a cunning and clever actor or actress. They are so good at “make believe” that many people will fall for their ridiculous behaviors. If you try to defend yourself, the narcissist and FM will become enraged, hostile, and aggressive in their attack against you. Regardless of how the narcissist and FM expresses the victim role, the scapegoat may shift from being confused, hurt, or upset to suddenly become the supporter in the dysfunctional dynamic.

By this point, you may have unwilling become the OFFENDER, the O in DARVO. After the narcissist twisted the facts, you are turned into the “bad guy.” The narcissist and flying monkeys expect you to justify yourself and apologize for something that you are not guilty for. This is total crazy-making, sadistic behaviors, which is clearly mental abuse. It may or may not involve you having a trauma-bond or codependency to the abusers.

If you have experienced DARVO, it’s essential to seek emotional support by a trauma-informed professional who is an expert at understanding narcissistic abuse. As a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, at least 95% of my clients have sought my coaching services because I have personal experience with narcissistic abuse.

As a daughter of a narcissistic mother and toxic, abusive siblings, I've been there and done that. I understand the toxic family enmeshment I know the roles each member plays in the dysfunctional family unit.

There's a chapter in my book, Soul Rescue, about this important topic of the roles each family member has, such as the family scapegoat, the Golden Child, the narcissist, the forgotten child, etc. It can be quite validating for anyone who's suffered child neglect and abuse, sibling abuse, sexual abuse, and narcissistic abuse. Check out my book on Amazon: When you work one-on-one with me for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching, you have voice and choice. I am your equal and your guide. You will be seen, heard, validated, and understood. I will help you navigate the recovery process for you to increase your quality of life; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. We will explore various holistic modalities, somatic embodiment, and strategies to support you on your healing journey.

Ready to get started? To learn more about what I do as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, visit my coaching page.

For my coaching packages and prices, visit my price page.

If there is nothing else that you learn today, may you learn that there is a brand-new life after narcissistic abuse. There is a better life after enduring significant trauma. There is an empowering life after setting boundaries. There is a beautiful, transformative life after breaking free from toxic, abusive dynamics. There is hope for you to heal your trauma.

1,044 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page