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What Is DARVO and How Can It Help You Recognize Emotional Abuse in Conversations?

The acronym “DARVO” has been floating around the internet recently, and it’s sparking important conversations about recognizing emotional abuse. DARVO is a tactic many emotional abusers use to project their behavior onto their victims and gaslight emotional abuse survivors into believing they’re the ones who need to change their behavior — not their abusers. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.”

Let’s break this down further:

Deny: When an abuser is confronted about their behavior toward an abuse survivor, they may deny that they ever said or did what the survivor claims they did. This first portion of DARVO is a form of gaslighting — or making a person doubt the reality of their experiences.

Attack: After denying that they ever participated in the offending action or actions, an emotional abuser may attack the victim of their abuse for mentioning that their actions were hurtful. They may try to put their victim down to dissuade them from attempting to discuss the abuse again or bring up unrelated incidents that paint the victim in a negative light. They may also say the abuse survivor is “too sensitive” or “can’t take a joke” to begin to make the survivor believe they alone are at fault.

Reverse Victim and Offender: An emotional abuser may then try to make themselves out to be the victim of their own victim’s confrontation — no matter how calmly an emotional abuse survivor attempts to discuss the issue. The abuser may say that their victim is “hurting their feelings” or claim that the abuse survivor is “attacking” them for expressing how they feel about being attacked. The abuse survivor may then feel guilty for “hurting” their abuser and apologize for doing absolutely nothing wrong because

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