that thread about DARVO 

I said earlier that I'd talk about this, so.

It's important to know what DARVO is and how it's used as a tool to bully people into silence/complicity in bad behavior.

DARVO is an acronym. It stands for:

Reverse Victim and Offender.

It is a technique that is used by abusive people to cover up their abuse.

It is incredibly common. Knowing how to spot it is key.


There are a lot of famous examples of this. Brett Kavanagh. Matt Lauer. R. Kelly. Some people refer to it as "playing the victim", but it's more complex than that, and a lot of the time, especially in situations where it's not high-profile people involved, it gets used successfully.

When called out on bad behavior, someone will DENY that they did it: "I never said that, you can't prove it, I meant [x] not [y]..."

They will attempt to change the narrative.


Usually, this doesn't work, because people have proof, or it's extremely plausible that this happened. Think like, "this person has a history of bad behavior and it's believable that they'd do this."

At this point, they will double down and begin attacking their victim. Sometimes it looks like attacking their credibility, sometimes it's their character, and sometimes it's simply saying, "well, they have also done this and I have intangible 'proof'".


Once *any attention* is paid to the attack, they will begin reversing the victim and the offender in the situation. In day-to-day interactions, it can be hard to tell who is actually at fault, and this is often extremely successful.


"They're only calling me out because [something that ties to the previous personal attack]."

Something like: "They're only calling me racist because they're queerphobic! I once overheard them call [NAME] [slur]!"


The focus then shifts back to the whistleblower, and now their behavior is under a great degree of scrutiny from the community. Any/everything they have done is under the microscope, and suddenly they have to defend themselves from unrelated probes into their past and personal life.

Annnnnnnnd the original abusive person gets off more or less scot-free. They now have plausible deniability next time they are called out.


In many cases, they end up building up supporters, because people see them being "attacked" (rightfully called out for doing things that are harmful or dangerous to the community), and want to step up and defend them, because they have triangulated themselves such that they are successfully read as being a victim each time.

It is *insidious*.

It is extremely common, especially in smaller communities.

*You have to be aware of how to stop it*.


Whenever you see conflict between two people who are asking you to "pick sides", you have to stop and ask yourself:

-Who brought the original accusation?
-Was that accusation grounded in reality (that is to say, it is something that makes sense and was not completely out of left field)?
-How did the person who was accused respond? What was *their* take on it? Were they apologetic and humble, or did they attack the other person and convince their friends to close ranks?


Also consider:

-Who is being positioned as the victim? Do they have a history of BEING the victim? Does their "victimhood" only seem to arise whenever there is conflict (i.e. they are not being bullied per se, they are bringing up that they are a victim when someone mentions credible concerns regarding their behavior)?


Finally, think about:

-Does the victim have a history of alienating people? Consider this: abusers can be charming and seem incredibly kind and charismatic, but they can't maintain that facade at all times, and many people will see through their shit and simply stop talking to them without giving in to this narrative. We're not talking about, "they're hard to get along with and it's clear why people wouldn't like them", but "they seem nice, I don't know why people attack them so often"


Once you know how to spot it, you gotta know how to stop it.

Honestly? The only way to win is not to play.

But if you gotta -- if you are being forced to "pick sides" in some never-ending ridiculous conflict...and it's important to you that you DO pick a side...

Ask yourself the questions.

Figure out who is employing this technique. It's rare, but sometimes BOTH sides will, and they'll BOTH flip back and forth on who is the "victim" in the equation.


Where you can, *shine light on the original accusation*. Abusive people get out of accountability for their behavior by bringing up things that are *not relevant to the discussion at hand*, sometimes misrepresenting them.

Focus on what the original accusation was.

Do not give in to the temptation to debate the semantics of whether or not the whistleblower is at fault.


Recenter the narrative and make it about the original abusive act.

Point out that the person who is being called out for bad behavior is trying to rugsweep by using DARVO as a tactic.

Focus on what was originally done, not something that is long in the past or not relevant to the topic at hand.

Let's go over an example, shall we?


John has been sexually harassing Jane at work. Jane is uncomfortable and finally snaps at John, calling him an asshole, before reporting him to HR.

It's Jane's word against John's.

Jane tells HR what happened. John is allowed to defend himself.

John focuses on how Jane is "difficult to work with" and has snapped at John before, something that's noted in her personnel file.

John posits that Jane is under a lot of stress and "taking it out on him."


HR *has* to pick a side -- they can't *not*. John also has notes in his personnel file, but Jane is flustered and doesn't bring this up immediately.

How should HR handle this?

-Focus on the *first* event. This is about John harassing Jane, not about whether or not Jane is pleasant to work with.
-Practice active listening and speak with Jane one on one, away from John, to get details.
-Speak with John, and prevent him from talking about Jane's past behavior in his recounting.


By focusing on the initial event and not allowing the other person to bring up things that have happened in the past, you will learn a few things right away:

1). The whistle blower's story is unlikely to change substantially when they are asked about what happened. They may add or subtract details, because memory is fuzzy, but the heart of it will stay the same.
2). The story told by the accused will change rapidly, depending on what they think the listener wants to hear.


3). The accused is going to try *every tactic they can think of* to keep the listener from "turning" on them, including bringing up the past, attacking the character of the person who does the accusing with nebulous attacks, restoring to strawman arguments -- *everything*.
4). When the accused doesn't think that they have a chance of winning you over, they will label you a "toxic" person and begin to attack you as well.


5). At this point, it is on you to let other people know what the situation is and what the accused is trying to do. You have to keep the focus on *their* behavior, and support their victim -- the ACTUAL victim.

If you can do this, congratulations, you're on your way to building a healthy community.



If you are the whistleblower, and this happens to you, please note that you are not alone. It is a *common* tactic, laughably common.

There is not a lot you can do, but there are a few things.

There's another useful acronym here -- JADE. Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain.

The temptation is to think that you're dealing with a reasonable human being, and they'll listen to you and take what you say in good faith, but...they won't.


Don't Justify what you did. They will twist it and use it against you.

Don't Argue -- this feeds their victim complex.

Don't Defend -- it makes you look guilty, and they will absolutely latch onto that.

Don't Explain -- there is no explanation you can give that will make them stop being an asshole.

Repeat what you have said, with evidence if you have it, make sure other people have the full story, and let 'em know about DARVO if you are comfortable doing so. Then bow out.


Does it suck? Oh yeah, ABSOLUTELY.

Does it hurt? You betcha.

But simply refusing to engage and walking away is the healthiest thing you can do, even though it sucks.

Again, the only way to win is not to play.

You did a good thing, telling your truth and bringing their bad behavior to light.

Eventually, other people will see that.

In the meantime, hey.

I believe you.

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@hafnia what about this case but actually it goes like: John has been harming Jane for a while and Jane hasn’t said anything. One day she snaps and calls him an asshole. The whole office hears it and is angry because Jane finds herself in this situation a lot. Another person in the office says she is always abusive towards others. Who is the accuser and accused here? Who harmed who? I found myself in a related situation with a friend and couldn’t untangle

abuse, DARVO 

@hafnia oh. oh no. I wish I had read this toot three or so years ago.

that thread about DARVO 

This was very helpful and helped me understand how to verbalize some things. Thank you

I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@hafnia someone who has helped both people who have been abused and those that abuse others, people who do this rarely do so on purpose.

I've walked people who are abusers through these steps and helped them realize what they are doing and why they should stop, so it isn't *used to* cover up their abuse, but it *has the effect* of covering up their abuse.

That being said, it is PARAMOUNT for people who are being abused to know that this DOES happen very often and it SHOULD be noticed and DEALT with. And if talking them through it doesn't help, I fully condone a curb sandwich.

I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel perhaps I could have been more careful in my language, but I address this at the end of the thread. It's rarely a conscious choice and is usually a maladaptive response to dealing with conflict, something that gets clung to because it works. I feel as though it is dangerous to state that it is *always* this, though - - if people do not change after being made aware, they are to be avoided.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@hafnia I absolutely agree, I just have known people that become even worse, sometimes to near homicidal levels, because everyone thought they were a monster, "so they might as well act like one"

I realize, and got him to realize, that behavior was entirely HIS choice, but it did make me sad that he was even made to feel like that because people assumed that he was inherently evil.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel that sounds very much like my ex-partner, who would later trap me in our bedroom with a knife and try to stab me.

I truly hope that whomever it was you helped went on to seek therapy and did grow and change. My experience has been that "acknowledging" their abusive tendencies is yet another way that abusive men justify what they do. Real change is difficult, but manipulation is easier for them.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel that sounds way more like excuse and entitlement than being "made to" feel anything tbh. Oh, I am being made kinda sorta accountable for my actions so I will lash out and kill people? This is why a woman is at the greatest risk of being murdered when she has left her abusive partner. I bet you that every single one of
those murderous ex-partners said what you said here, that they were made to act as they did because they no longer had the companionship and validation they thought was their due.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites Obviously, and I'm sorry I didn't make that more clear.

Concisely, what I was meaning to say is that I get upset when people are dehumanized for whatever reason. The point where people switch from saying someone is acting horribly and someone IS a monster, is the point where it becomes upsetting, because they aren't a monster. They are just as human as anyone else and entitled to the extent of human dignity. Obviously they should be held accountable, but the manner in which they are held accountable should be proportional to their willingness to actually substantively rehabilitate. Granted, that is really hard to actually do, and it would be much easier to just throw them all in a wood-chipper, doing so would go against the community of humans, which I believe is worth trying to foster and encourage.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel I agree that dehumanizing and othering ideas about abusers is harmful. As far as I can tell, though, the people harmed are abuse victims, not abusers themselves. What often happens when people have cartoonish ideas about inhuman monstrous abusers is not that they become harsher to abusers (unless the abuser is marginalized/othered in some other way, such as race and class) but they circle the wagons insisting "MY friend/family/colleague/celebrity can't be an abuser because abusers have, idk, horns and tails and he doesn't!! His alleged victim is lying!!"

And another thing is, if someone did call the abuser a monster... was that really dehumanization, or something said by the victim or their friends in anger and horror at the horrific treatment the victim had endured, something the abuser hoodwinked you into believing was the equivalent of the systematic dehumanization they had subjected the victim to? From what I know of abuse dynamics the latter seems likelier, tbh.

So yes, I agree abuse should be understood as a human phenomenon, not a monstrous/otherworldly one. But in my experience at least? It's not actual abusers who bear the brunt of the "monstrous abuser" rhetoric.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites I've had plenty of experience that would lead me to agree with you, but I've also had a lot of experience on the other side as well.

I have seen people who were abused, after the abuser voluntarily left the relationship because they realized how much they were hurting the other person, try actively to kill the abuser at a later date because they felt "justice wasn't done" or that they felt they "deserved to die for what they did"

And that's not to mention the number of people who have gotten the death penalty and have been treated as subhuman, even though it is a human act.

I one-hundred percent agree with your point that humanizing abuse also has the added benefit of helping those who are abused recognize when they are being abused, and it is reason like a billion why I do think that it is important to try to say how someone is acting is horrible, rather than calling them monstrous. Even if it was said in anger, it is a very unhelpful anger, both for the person abused and for the abuser.

If someone who is abused says their partner is a monster or a demon, that will build up over time in them feeling powerless to stop them, but reminding yourself that they are just as human as you are can help you formulate strategies for dealing with the situation.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel So it seems to me that your observations of abusers being dehumanized are not widespread or systematic but rather one-off cases of victims being vengeful. Which isn't great, but wanting (wrongfully) to make someone pay for what they did to you isn't the equivalent of systematically breaking a person down and reducing them to a husk, which is what abuse is.

Also the death penalty comes into this somehow, when it has very little to do with abuse? I have literally never heard of anyone being put to death for abuse alone, and if anything the DP is heavily stacked against marginalized people which has little to do with abuse itself since abusers come from all groups.

And like... I think you're way off base about abuse victims' psychology re their abusers, because given the close relationship that often exists between abuser and abused the abuse victim is often the person MOST aware of the abuser's humanity, as well as their capacity to terrorize and destroy (ask me how I know lmao). One doesn't preclude the other, you know.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites Not all victims are the same and neither are all abusers. At the end of the day, that is the main point I'm trying to get across, both to you and to the world.

I also think your definition of abuse is too limiting, considering that it completely disregards things such as one time physical abuse, which may not be systematic or have the effect of "reducing someone to a husk" as you put it, but undoubtedly counts as abuse.

Also, the "ask me how I know" bit is extremely rude and I'd rather this not devolve to comparing our abuse dicks. I understand that you have first hand experience with this. As do I, and I'm not sure why you felt it necessary to insinuate otherwise.

Since you did though, I'll point out that I too was more aware of my abuser's humanity than some of those around me, BUT, I have also helped upwards of 5-10 other people who did not have that same reaction. I wasn't saying that ALL abuse victims view their abuser as a demon, I was just stating that a plurality of them do.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel Exactly nobody here claimed that all victims or abusers were the same. What I'm talking about is the dynamic of abuse and what is and is not a systematic problem, precisely because individual cases and people all differ but the dynamics are fairly constant.

And you really claim to be "helping" abusers while misunderstanding the first thing about abuse? Oh my god, this is horrifying. Next you'll be telling me a fisticuff in an argument is abuse, all stealing is abuse, and all murder is abuse? Completely disregarding that abuse is an ongoing dynamic and not a one-off one?

Imagine thinking that just because I mentioned my history of abuse to make a point it means I invalidated yours, huh. Because abuse victims are like Highlanders and there can only be one, right?

But please, go on clutching your pearls parroting abusers' lines and trying to make out the dehumanization of ABUSERS as the real problem here. Also specifically and deliberately getting into the mentions of an abuse survivor to make that point when you could have done literally anything else. Really makes it seem like you have the interests of abuse victims at heart, that does.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites I have met people who have completely misunderstood both the method and purpose of discourse before, but not since I got off of Tumblr and 4chan.

To break it down for you, the reason that I was saying you bringing up your personal experience was rude is because it is an argument from anecdote, I never said that it invalidated either of our experiences, but it just isn't good evidence. Saying that "I know this is how abuse victims feel because I am an abuse victim" is overgeneralizing.

And if you read ANYTHING that I said, I did say that the BIGGEST issue is OF COURSE the well being of the ABUSE VICTIM. I can't believe that I've been reduced to caps lock emphasis, but here we are.

Note, I never said that abusers should be given leeway, slack, or any synonym that could be misconstrued to mean that you should let them off the hook. Quite the opposite, in fact.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel you literally made up a quote lying about what I actually said (hint: often=/= all) and get mad about me misunderstanding? Rich!

I already pointed out the ways you disregard victims in favor of abusers and won't repeat myself.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites I apologize for insinuating that was a verbatim quotation, I should've made it clear that I was indicating the direction that your discourse was taking rather than a reflection of words which actually were written.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel nope you're still engaging in the exact same strawman and also being hypocritical, after having claimed a "plurality" (see this is an actual quote) of victims dehumanize their abusers based on what you admit is anecdotal evidence. You're also engaging in false moral equivalence between that and the dehumanization of abusers subject their victims to.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites I would love to hear your explanation for how that moral equivalence is false. When you treat someone who is human as less than human, regardless of context, that is insufferable and grotesque.

I believe I have interacted with a large enough sample size of individuals to claim a plurality, though. In case you aren’t aware, that doesn’t mean more than half or anything, just a sizable MINORITY of cases. I think it is healthy to assume, as you obviously do, that the care of the victim is what is most importance, through this entire thing I have merely been stating the fact that care to the abuser is not of zero importance.

If you want to talk about a straw man argument, take a look at your own. Cherry picking parts of my argument that have to do with the humanizing of the abuser while completely ignoring the caveat that it is not in order to nor should it have the effect of minimizing or negating any due punishment.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel I mean there's nothing to cherry pick here, you just said the abuser in dehumanizing the victim and the victim in failing to see the humanity in the person tormenting them are morally equivalent. You getting into the mentions of an abuse survivor to whatabout about the abusers' humanity is especially rich given that she's not disregarding their humanity at all, in fact she makes an offer in this very thread to listen to and help people engaging in DARVO. You basically created a problem that is at best peripheral to abuse to make the conversation about the poor little abusers.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites I believe my initial point was taken without this whole big fiasco. My original post was just that the wording of that DARVO was *used* by abusers *in order to* or for the purpose of silencing abuse victims was usually false. It is possible that 100% of people reading the original post knew this already and understood that the original poster meant that people who engage in DARVO have the effect of silencing abuse victims, but because I have had experience with people that didn’t know the difference between those things, I felt like it would help those 1 or 2 people who were reading the post who didn’t already know that. To empower them to not necessarily view their abuser as a machinating demon, but as a human who can chew concrete as effectively as anyone else, if the need arose.

I don’t understand how you can say that I was making the conversation about “the poor little abusers” as you called it, and when I advocated for putting half of the abuser’s jaw on either side of the corner of a curb and pressing down sharply on the base of their skull. I don’t think I that is being particularly gentle to them, but maybe you treat your friends that way, I don’t know.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel Saying abusers act with the purpose of silencing their victims is turning them into inhuman monsters? Does not track. Just because someone takes an action with purpose (which may also be subconscious, as a defense mechanism--a really human thing!) and effect doesn't mean they're not human, you know. So again, it's a nonexistent problem that you created.

Thank you for the lesson on what a curb sandwich is. With rhetoric like that the only person dehumanizing abusers on this thread is you, ironically. And you really really reeeallly felt it necessary to put that in the mentions of a woman who had suffered violent abuse. Classy.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@ljwrites I'm glad that you understand the psychology involved so well, obviously if you already knew that my post was not for you.

I apologize if my language was too graphic at the end, I just wanted to make sure my point was as clear as I could make it, and I was and am getting rather irritated that you insist that I am coddling those who abuse others.

The reason I don't count what I said as dehumanizing is because that was an action to be taken only after you have exhausted what other action may be used.

Once again, for the N+1th time, my point is not that you should hold back against abusers, but that you should address the problem correctly as being a human one. I understand that you might comprehend the situation to its fullest, but not everyone is so lucky.

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I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@blackernel while I have a great deal of sympathy for people who grew up in abusive homes or with caretakers that taught them this is how to resolve conflict, my own experience with it has primarily been in dealing with people who have directly done me physical harm engaging in these tactics to undermine my credibility and reduce the consequences of their actions. I have a difficult time being objective for that reason.

re: I'm not defending people that use DARVO, but... 

@hafnia I had the fortune to help people on both sides when I was very young and the misfortune to have had a pretty bad experience with it later on, a classic example of failing to take my own advice, so I also understand how hard it is to be objective. If I hadn't helped people before being hurt, I don't know that I could even try to be objective.

And the trap I made sure to avoid when helping him was that, even if he wasn't doing it on purpose, it is still his fault. And I wasn't about to let him off the hook, just because it was a tendency of his. If anything, that should be a reason to give him less slack, because he has to work harder, and it is much harder to climb a slacked rope than a taught one as it is.

that thread about DARVO 

@hafnia it happened to me. they attacked *before* I knew to call them out. they spent months in private channels convincing people to assume bad faith for misunderstandings involving me. I was bullied by their followers and not them for a long time without knowing who was behind it. by the time they called me out they had an army of people with more clout than me who supported them. now half of trans twitter hates me and doesn’t know they might be next.

that thread about DARVO 

@penny @hafnia how the community can pile down is the next level of awful... 💜

that thread about DARVO 

@hafnia helping in processing a recent situation in one of my communities, thank you

that thread about DARVO 

@hafnia This is great, and neatly articulates a lot to do with how abusers operate. Thanks for this!

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