Narcissus and DARVO - Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim Offender

Narcissus and DARVO - Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim Offender

As I have emphasized multiple times throughout my blog, I am not in any way, shape, or form an expert on psychology, psychiatry, mental health, healing, sociology, anthropology, etc. I have no formal training. I speak, instead, from the first-hand experience of someone who spent six years in a relationship with a narcissist and is now on her healing journey (read: Ekho's Brief Timeline). As such, I am still learning terms related to narcissism, and one term that piqued my curiosity this week was DARVO.

"DARVO" is an acronym that stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender."

The term was coined to describe a pattern of behavior where someone responds to criticism or confrontation by denying any wrongdoing, attacking the accuser, and portraying themselves as the victim. This tactic can be used to deflect accountability, manipulate emotions, and maintain control over a situation. I was watching Dr. Ramani’s video on DARVO, and immediately, I knew that this was a technique that my narcissist effortlessly used throughout our relationship. 

While I could (and hopefully eventually will) describe dozens of times my narcissist used DARVO to flip the script and make himself out to be the victim and me the abuser, I will focus this blog on just one long, drawn-out example.

After my narcissist assaulted me and was arrested for the second time, we went three months without speaking. When we finally decided to talk about what happened the night he was arrested, under the supervision of a highly skilled counselor, this is what transpired in the 10 weeks we were in counseling.

DARVO and My Narcissist

1. Deny

Dr. Ramani states that, at first, the narcissist will deny that what they are being accused of ever happened. During our three months apart, my narcissist was running his flap to his friends and lawyer. When we sat down to talk in front of our therapist, my narcissist – without any hesitation or signs of misgivings – regaled us with the farcical story he had been spewing all over town. Often, in our first 2-3 counseling sessions, I had to remind him “Narcissus, I was there, the lies you told your friends and family will not work on me.” He was so used to denying all wrongdoing and promoting the false narrative that he did not assault me and, instead, I self-harmed that he continued this tactic without pause. He also told people that he was ‘defending his son’s room’ since, allegedly, I was going to destroy it in a fit of madness. This wild assertion (i.e., lie) was loosely grounded in the real-life happening of me going to his son’s room after he assaulted me to get an iPad to try to contact outside help and him responding by grabbing my neck and slamming my head off the wall. Long story short, during our initial few counseling sessions, he denied what he did and tried to paint a soap opera-worthy counternarrative. What struck me as particularly chilling was the ease at which he told this outrageous story that no one past middle school would believe.

2. Attack

The counselor and I were not buying his lies – none of them made sense and had even one of his flying monkeys thought about it for a minute, they would realize my narcissist’s counternarrative made about as much sense as a flat earther’s argument. There existed physical evidence and police reports which highlighted exactly what Narcissus did to me. In short, my narcissist was being held accountable and he knew that, despite his best efforts, he could not lie and manipulate his way out of this one.

So what did he do? He switched his tactics from denying that he assaulted me to attacking my character and credibility.

“When they know that they did it, they will not comment on the evidence, they are going to go right to attack.’     ~ Dr. Ramani

His first approach was to attack my mental sanity, but when that did not work, he tried others. 

The following is a list of some of the many ways he tried to attack me during our sessions:

  1. Ekho has mental health issues (actually, we were in therapy for his mental health struggles, not mine, and even if I did, how does this justify abuse?)
  2. Ekho is controlling (if by controlling you mean I impede your desire to get drunk and drive with your kids in the car, I guess I am?)
  3. Ekho is trying to make me look bad (umm…I covered for you the first time you assaulted me and were arrested, I dropped the PFA to a civil no contact so you could keep your job, and I allowed you to go through the Violence Diversion Program rather than jail….how am I trying to hurt you?)
  4. Ekho is awkward and weird and doesn’t understand social norms (I am pretty sure that assaulting your wife and then claiming she went crazy and self-harmed is frowned upon, but what do I know?).

3. Reverse Victim and Offender

Finally, when all of this failed to woo the therapist who was very skilled in dealing with personality disorders and abuse, my narcissist tried to reverse victim and offender in a last-ditch effort to save face. Here are some ways he did it.

  1. The power dynamics were all off and Ekho had all the power (I had no power. He controlled the finances and, as the former beloved President of our church, he was what I have come to term ‘Church Royalty,’ which is why he could effectively recruit so many monkeys from our church)
  2. Ekho kept me from my friends (His friends were at our house multiple times per week, and we hung out with them constantly, while my friends were rarely around. He also isolated me from my family. What he meant was ‘Ekho doesn’t let me go to the bar and get drunk with my friends 4-5 times a week’).
  3. Ekho is paranoid and has an unhealthy attachment style (I guess this one might be true. After years of being lied to, cheated on, gaslit, manipulated, trauma-bonded, breadcrumbed, and degraded, I had many reservations about trusting him).

I will also give an example of how a flying monkey couple, Fanny and Ron, tried to use DARVO on me. These two odious flying monkeys were big wigs at our church. They didn’t care about my wellbeing, at all. What they cared about was that the church did not fracture when the congregants learned that their beloved former President (presidency is a four-year term) assaulted his wife. These two people pretended to be my friends. They came to my PFA hearing ‘to support me’ and, then, urged me (while I was still healing from a concussion) to drop the PFA to a Civil No Contact order so that my narcissist could attend church.

DARVO and a Flying Monkey

1. Deny

First, they tried to deny that I was assaulted. I have text messages that friends have shared where they downplayed my assault. They tried to paint our relationship as a ‘passionate one’ that just got a little too rowdy one night.

2. Attack

When their tactic of denying the abuse didn’t work because there was physical evidence and medical records to show I suffered from a concussion, cervical strain, and broken collarbone due to the abuse, they began to attack my character. They made statements – in writing and spoken word – such as:

  1. ‘Well, how many times did Ekho go back to Narcissus, because I lost count’ (as if to imply that women who were really abused never went back to their abusive partners). 
  2. ‘There is more to the story and backstory that you all don’t know’ (as if I did something in the past to deserve this treatment.)
  3. ‘She was sleeping with x, y, or z’ (in an attempt to slut-shame me, which is a common tactic used against female abuse victims).

3. Reverse Victim and Offender

Finally, they tried to flip the script and make me out to be the offender and my abuser the victim. Here are some examples of how they did this.

  1. Fanny wrote a letter to the new minister and one of the teams at Church saying that she saw the hole in my wall where my head went through and it was just a little mark, so I clearly exaggerated my abuse. Really, Narcissus was the victim of my lies.
  2. Ron wrote a letter to the entire cluster of Churches (consisting of dozens of Churches) stating that I attacked my abuser, his first wife Prissy, and his boys. In reality, I did everything in my power to protect all of them, hence the reason my narcissist went through the Violence Diversion Program rather than a full trial and jail. 

DARVO is an age-old tactic that only the most nefarious of people would ever use.

It is a tool used by people who refuse to take accountability for their actions and, instead, blame everyone else for their bad behavior. My narcissist, Fannie, and Ron all had the emotional maturity of a preschooler and, as such, employed DARVO without any feeling of remorse or guilt. It is good to be aware of DARVO so that you can recognize it and say – Not today Narcissus – Not today.

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