DARVO is just another term for gaslighting but is more in-depth. Bullies will discredit the victim by discrediting the claims.
DARVO is an acronym that stands for:
D – Deny – Anytime the target calls out their bullies’ abuse, the bullies will first deny the behavior. Bullies will counter with things like,
“That’s not what I said.”
“That never happened.”
“That’s not what I did.”
Or, they may not necessarily deny it, but may minimize their behavior by saying things like:
“It wasn’t that serious.”
“I didn’t hit you that hard. That was a love-pat compared to what I could’ve done to you.”
“If I was mad, you’d know it.”
A – Attack – Next, the bullies will attack you. They will discredit you by discrediting your claims. Also, bullies will use gaslighting to make you question or doubt yourself. And they will say to you, things like:
“But you’re just looking for a fight.”
“You’re a drama queen.”
“You’re being paranoid.”
“But you’re being difficult.”
“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“You just won’t leave well enough alone.”
R – Reverse
V – Victim
O – Offender – The bullies will blame you for their behavior. They’ll claim that you did something to them to make them act the way they acted. Therefore, your bullies will make statements such as:
“It’s your fault.”
“You asked for it.”
“But you had it coming.”
“You made me hurt you.”
“You’re the bully, not me!”
I want you to know that DARVO has been around since the beginning of time, only today, it has a name. Down through history, it’s been the most common manipulation tactic of psychological abusers. Only 24 years ago did someone put a name to it! DARVO came from the work of psychologist Jennifer Freyd, PhD, who first introduced the term in late 1997.
Myths are often mistaken for fact and obscure people’s judgment. They can also blind us to bullying behavior, even when it’s happening right in front of our faces. Myths can even make it hard for a person to know when someone is abusing them.
Here are a few myths to be aware of:
Myth 1. Targets are weak losers who deserve bullying. People suffering at the hands of bullies are not weak, nor are they losers. In the past decade or so, we have found that bullies target mostly those who are good people with hearts of gold. Bullies are evil people who perceive goodness, kindness, and generosity as weaknesses. Therefore, they target people who have these qualities.
Also, bullies go after those who are multi-talented and star achievers and performers. Understand that bullies perceive these people to be a threat to their power. Why? Because one-upmanship is a way that bullies can feel powerful.
When high-achieving targets outshine bullies, especially bullies who are narcissists, they unwittingly provoke jealousy and narcissistic rage in the bullies, and they will pull out all the stops to make them pay and set them up to fail. If nothing else, understand this! Bullies hate to be outshone, outdone, or beaten at anything!
Nobody deserves bullying. Ever! Bullying is harmful and can destroy someone’s life.
Myth 2. Bullies are brave, strong, cool, exciting, and in control. Ha! Bullies are the opposite of these things. Let me break it down for you:
Bullies are brave. Nope! Bullies are great, big cowards! They’re only good at hiding it. Bullies live by the motto that strength comes in numbers, so they run around in packs- hiding their cowardice behind groups of sycophants or flying monkeys.
You will never catch a bully alone because a bully doesn’t know how to stand alone. The followers of the bullies are there to back them up and do their dirty work. Bullies get their power from an entourage. Without their wing-men to cover them, they would be powerless.
Bullies are strong. ‘Taint so! Bullies are weak, they only high it by aggression, loudness, and false bravado. They instill unnecessary fear into their targets. Understand that bullies draw their power from the fear they instill in others. Bullies are notorious bluffs, blowhards, and windbags. The tough act they put on is a way they hide their weakness.
Bullies are cool. Au contraire! Bullies are pathetic. They bluff, they posture, and they’re notorious one-uppers. They always have to be king of the hill and better than anyone else. All of this is a sign of insecurity and self-loathing. Because if they were secure in themselves, they wouldn’t resort to that buffoonery.
Bullies are exciting. They may seem exciting at first, but they get boring pretty quick. Because they’ll talk incessantly about themselves, brag, and showboat until you’ll want to chew off your own arm just to get away from them. Also, they won’t be so exciting when they turn on you.
Bullies are in control: Really? Is that what you want to call it? Um…not! Bullies can’t even control themselves and their own pathetic lives. So, they seek to control others in order to feel powerful. And in doing that, they not only create targets, but they also create enemies who hate them with a passion.
If you’re a bully, you may only control someone to a certain degree by putting the fear of God in them, but you’ll never control what they think of you and how they feel about you. Because the mind and thoughts are free. And if you run across a person who has a strong sense of self and doesn’t fall for your guff, what are you going to do then?
Myth 3. “Bullying is a normal rite of passage that all kids endure.” Not so. There’s nothing normal about bullying. It’s perverse, twisted, and sick. Bullying only speaks volumes of the mental imbalance and lack of character of the bully and is never a reflection of the target. Bullying is always a reflection of the bully’s arrogance, cowardice, insecurity, jealousy, and hidden rage. And the more we learn about the issue of bullying, the more evidence we seem to get that supports this.
Myth 4. Bullying builds character. No, it doesn’t. It tears it down or suppresses it, rendering targets afraid to relax, be themselves, and feel safe.
It’s important to dispel and not to fall for these myths. Never blame yourself for other people’s crappy behavior. Hold on to your truth. And if anyone rattles off any of the above lines to you when you speak out against bullying, counter them and do it with conviction.
In movies and television, we see scenarios where targets stand up to bullies and automatically either get left alone or become friends with their former tormentors. However, in most cases, this is not reality. Remember that bullies are relentless.
Here are the tactics bullies use when a target stands up for themselves:
If you are a target, you must realize that bullies will not relinquish their power so easily. They will not be good sports and hand your human rights back over to you, nor will they bow out of your life gracefully. Bullies have an insatiable need to wield power over another, and without that power, they feel lost.
Why? Because bullies have no redeemable qualities and they’re losers in life. And since they can’t get power by their own merit, the only way left to get it is by ruining someone else’s life.
Make no mistake about it. When you kick unsavory people out of your life, they will do the following:
1. They will gaslight you- by adding their spin to make you look and feel like the villain and maligning you to others to destroy your good name and credibility.
2. They will lay guilt trips- by trying to convince you that you are at fault or that the abuse is your imagination. Bullies are masters at this, especially female bullies who use feminine charm to deceive bystanders and authority figures.
3. They may recruit followers and start a smear campaign- by recruiting followers to spread rumors and lies. They will also try to turn your friends against you. It happened to me many times and it would come as retaliation for my having the gall to stand up to them and assert my God-given, divine right not to be abused or taken advantage of.
4. They will turn your friends against you- Females, although becoming more and more physically violent with time, commit much of their bullying by Dividing and Conquering- attacking the targets’ relationships to turn everyone against the target to isolate them. Think about it. The chances are that your friends know your deepest, darkest secrets. They would know the most intimate details about your life. Friends are a GOLDMINE of information to bullies.
5. They will project their shortcomings onto you– Bullies have flaws and their greatest fear is having them exposed. What better way to keep their imperfections hidden than to either project them onto the target?
6. They will distract others’ attention away from their flaws by pointing out yours– What better way is there to hide their own shortcomings than putting the spotlight on yours? It shouldn’t be so easy but it is!
If bullies can’t control you, they will control how others see you.
They use the above strategies not only to cover their backsides and to punish you for daring to grow a spine and defend yourself, but also to close you off from any possible help or protection.
Once the target is isolated, the bullies move in for the kill. Now, they can do with you whatever they choose to do, freely and with impunity because if everyone is against you, the least likely they are to report or stop the abuse. In the minds of others, you deserve what’s happening to you.
Bullies want to, figuratively, hold the target hostage, and they will resort to any means necessary to keep him/her on emotional lock down and “in their place.”
They will do it with physical violence when exclusion, subtle digs, verbal assaults, gaslighting, and other forms of psychological abuse no longer have an impact. Bullies will commit their violence either by committing bodily harm themselves or sending someone else to do their savagery for them.
This does not mean that you should not stand up for yourself because you should. However, when you do, be prepared. The torment will get worse before it gets better. Be strong. Be brave and know that none of it is your fault.
Many times, bullies will blow up on their targets for absolutely no reason. When they’re later questioned about the blow-up, they can’t remember why they lost their temper. So, they drum up fake memories to fill in the blanks in order to sound plausible instead of ridiculous.
When bullies confabulate, they do it to feel sane when they wouldn’t otherwise. And the way they feel sane is to insert made-up stories to fill in the blanks. I’ve seen this happen many times and even had bullies justify themselves to me by the same method.
Sometimes, confabulations can be mistaken for real memories and the truth to the confabulator.
When bullies confabulate a justifiable reason for their appalling behavior, they believe themselves. So, is it any wonder that most abusers appear to others to be telling the truth when they justify and rationalize away their abusive actions?
When a person believes their own lies, others are more likely to believe them too. It’s a fact.
Confabulations have an incredible effect on witnesses. When people hear lies spoken as truths, it is as if you’ve entered the twilight zone.
No one wants to be under a bully’s influence, but people get sucked under it all the time. Many people have had their lives destroyed, even taken because they were persuaded by bullies. And those who saw through those abusers and spoke out were either silenced or paid a heavy price for daring to open their mouths. This has also happened to entire cultures and populations.
Understand that confabulations can be a powerful weapon because, again- the bullies who confabulate believe themselves so it’s a sure bet that others will believe them too. That’s why we must learn to either properly counter any confabs or let the bully drag them out until others get tired of hearing them squawking about it.
Bullies are notorious for abusing their targets, then turning around and discounting their normal, understandable, and justifiable sadness, fear, anger, and depression that result as a direct cause.
But understand the subtext of your bullies’ actions and discounting of your pain-
“Your feelings mean nothing.”
“Your pain and suffering aren’t real and don’t matter.”
“You’re not allowed to be sad, angry, scared, or depressed when we abuse you.”
When bullies discount your pain and suffering, they may make statements such as:
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You’re such a crybaby.”
“Can’t you take a joke?”
“You’re jumping to conclusions.”
“You’re blowing everything out of proportion.”
“You’re always on the defensive.”
“You’re taking stuff too seriously.”
“It’s only in your imagination.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re always trying to start something.”
“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
…and the list goes on
The target may wonder why it is that he’s always in the wrong when he doesn’t mean to be. Understand that this is victim-blaming. And the bullies must blame you to keep from having to take responsibility for their behavior.
If nothing else, remember this:
You always know when something doesn’t feel good. So never doubt what you feel. Never second guess what you feel in your gut. Always listen to that jab in the pit of your stomach because your body never lies.
Have you noticed how bullies always seem to make “you” statements? You this, and you that; “you always” this, and “you never” that. You, you, you! The thing is, these statements are so transparent and so telling. They speak volumes about the bullies and nothing about the target because they are hallmarks of the typical abuser- accusation, and blame.
Here are a few common you-statements bullies make.
“You lie all the time!”
“You always bitch and complain about everything!”
“You’re (stupid, ugly, crazy, a liar, a wuss, etc.)!”
“You can’t leave well enough alone!”
“You’re a chicken!”
“You couldn’t find your ass with both hands!”
“You’ll never amount to anything!”
“You just keep pushing it!”
“You’re always trying to start something!”
“You always blow everything out of proportion!”
“You bring it all on yourself!”
“You always have to screw everything up!”
And the list is endless.
Know that these you-statements are designed to tear you down and keep you there. They’re meant to strip you of your rights as a human being, your dignity, your autonomy, your joy, your pride, all of which is your personal power.
You must counter them, then turn them around on the bully. How to do this is by simply saying, “No I’m not, YOU are!” or “No I don’t! YOU do!” Then dismiss the bully and walk away.
The bully might argue back but the important thing is that you’ve made your point. And you walk away and leave the bully standing there running their mouth and looking desperate and stupid.
Bullies may think they know you, and they may attempt to define who you are, but only you know the definition of who you are. By having the audacity to tell us who we are, not only to bullies attempt to force us to replace our thoughts of ourselves with theirs, they also try to play God.
In doing this, bullies also want to force us to deny our beliefs and convictions, and ultimately, deny ourselves. They want us to tell ourselves that what they did to us was all in our minds and only make-believe when it is they who are in a world of make-believe.
Understand that to accept someone else’s definition of you; you must discard your own. When we allow bullies to dictate our inner reality, we lose bits and pieces of ourselves. Also, little by little, we lose awareness of our emotions each time we allow them to do it and eventually grow numb.
For example, when we cry about a legitimate hurt that cuts us to the core, bullies will often invalidate the pain we feel and replace it with their perceptions of it.
They do it by making these biting statements:
“It isn’t that serious!”
“You’re too sensitive!”
“Oh, boo-friggin-hoo! You’re just a little cry baby trying to get attention!”
“Put your big-girl panties on!”
“Get over it!”
Understand that when you feel sadness, you feel sadness, and when you’re angry, you’re angry, and you should allow yourself and be allowed to feel those emotions. No one has a right to tell you how to feel. Ever!
In making these types of statements and accusations, bullies cause many targets to feel guilty for being a human being- for being a person. But realize that bullies don’t see you as a person with thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and convictions of your own. They see you as an abject- a robot they can control.
Bullies don’t see you as an independent and separate being. They see you as a subject who’s only here for their purpose, pleasure, and entertainment. In their minds, your sole purpose on earth is to make them feel powerful. Nothing more. So, instead of allowing you to own your truth, bullies will tell you what your truth is- or should be. And they’ll force-feed it to you and cram it down your throat.
Therefore, this is the kind of response you should expect from bullies.
And if you’re not careful, you’ll allow their statements to overtake you and, in that, allow their perceptions to replace yours. You’ll begin to see yourself through their eyes until you let them blind you to your true nature. You’ll slowly lose sight of yourself until you don’t know who you are anymore.
Even worse, you’ll lose the intuition that they’re abusing you and will no longer know when to protect yourself- you’ll grow numb to the abuse. Realize that this is how bullies and abusers train you not to defend yourself, and once they succeed, they then have you right where they want you- this is how bullies slowly and subtly take the fight out of targets and render them pacifists.
Understand that you must muster the strength to withstand your bullies’ attacks, do all you can to maintain your sense of self, and refuse to accept your bullies’ opinions and definitions of you. Never allow others to trick you into believing that they know you better than you know yourself. The truth is that you know yourself better than anyone else in the entire world because you’re the only one other than God who lives inside you.
Realize that bullies are persistent, so targets must maintain their sense of self and their clarity of who they are. Your beliefs, convictions, likes, dislikes, preferences, authenticity, autonomy, and your ability to decide when something doesn’t feel good add up to equal your definition and your truth.
Your self-definition, sense of self, self-belief, autonomy, confidence, self-esteem are like precious gems, and you must guard them against thieves who wish to take them.
…or “Victim Derangement Syndrome. Whatever you want to call it, it’s extremely toxic and it’s when things begin to become dangerous for a target of bullying.
TDS happens when the lies and bad talk about the target reaches such as pitch that it seems to be the unwritten rule to believe the BS or to, at the very least, act like you do. And too often, the bystander’s safety depends on it!
Bullies, followers, and bystanders have TDS when they have such an intense, demented, and blind hatred for the target that they’ll believe, without question (and without even blinking!), anything about him, so as long as it’s negative. And the more negative and condemning the rumors, the better and more convenient, and the better it suits the running narrative!
They’ll also believe it, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. Anytime you hear something about a target that sounds absolutely and utterly absurd to any rational and sane person outside the bullying environment, that’s when you know that Target Derangement Syndrome is at play!
Understand that when you’re a target of bullying and everyone in the environment you feel struck in (and you are stuck in) has TDS, that’s when you know the bullying has taken on a life of its own. In essence, you are burned in effigy!
Here are the signs and symptoms of Target Derangement Syndrome:
1. Others seem to jump at the chance to diminish anything positive about the target. For instance, if you are a target of bullying and you do a good deed that is either visible or gets positive recognition, others in the class, school, workplace, community, or any toxic environment will only disregard it and make statements such as:
a. “He only did that to make himself look good!”
b. “She’s only trying to score brownie points, kiss ass, (etc.).”
c. “Haha! He’s just doing that because he thinks it’s going to get him on everyone’s good side!”
When the target reaches a success, others will only rain on it, saying things like:
a. “Oh, God! Anyone could’ve accomplished that!”
b. “He’s trying to show out! He thinks he’s so special!”
2. People in the environment are wide open with their brutality against the target. Bullies, their followers, and any other bystander who wants to join in the mistreatment won’t even try to hide it anymore. Why?
Because these people know they’re protected from any accountability. They know that their brutality toward you is widely accepted now- even encouraged, or worse, celebrated!
They’ve picked up on the reality that no one will even dare help you (if they know what’s good for them) and won’t utter one word against the open abuse you endure every day. Remember that when others openly abuse you, it’s gotten to a very dangerous level! And you might want to ask yourself this:
“If they can get away with this, what are they likely to do to me next?”
“How much worse will they hurt me later?”
3. People in the toxic environment are blinded by their own hatred of you. They don’t know why they hate you so intensely. They just do.
If anyone on the outside were to ask them what you did or said to them to make them hate you so much, they either wouldn’t be able to answer them at all, or they would throw just any ridiculous answer out there, without having the goods to back it up.
And they’ll hope to the heavens the person asking is lazy and won’t press the issue further, or worse- (gasp!) challenge them to provide evidence that you’re such a despicable and deplorable person.
They’ll give ad hominem responses such as:
a. “Because she’s just a bitch and I hate her”
b. “Because I just hate the bitch!”
c. “Because he just rubs me the wrong way!”
d. “Because he’s a jerk and a know-it-all!”
And because they can’t come up with anything that makes sense, or, God forbid, produce any evidence to back up their (false) claims against you be prepared for them to fabricate lies out of thin air, or viciously attack the person asking the (very legitimate) questions and in that, pose the threat of making them look like the moronic and brutal monsters they really are!
4. These people will be intensely angered each time anything positive comes your way. For example, if you win an award, they may not say it to you, but you’ll see it in their faces and body language. They also may talk through their teeth to one another as their eyes blaze at you.
5. They’ll try to destroy your good mood because they’ll hate the possibility that you might be happy and feel good. If you are a target and they see you so much as laugh or crack a smile, here are a few responses you’re likely to hear from them:
a. “What the hell are you laughing about!”
b. “What the @&%# are you smiling about!”
c. “What have you got to be so happy about, bitch!”
d. Shut up, asshole! You laugh like a hyena!”
e. “I don’t see anything funny!”
f. “I wish she’d wipe that stupid smile off her face!”
6. They’ll shout you down and tell you to shut up, every time you even look like you’re about to open your mouth. Understand that these people don’t think you deserve to be heard, nor to even have the freedom to speak.
7. They’ll all rise against you when you defend yourself. When you have “the audacity” to stand up to them and assert your right not to be abused, they will all gang up on you and gaslight you into believing you asked for the abuse.
If that doesn’t work, expect them to smear you to others. And if that doesn’t silence you, the next step is a brutal physical attack. Always! If they can’t bring you down emotionally, they will do it physically and no one will jump in to help you. I’ve seen this happen and have had it happen to me.
8. They will watch you like a hawk. Understand that they and everyone else in the bullying environment will be watching you very closely- waiting for you to screw up even the tiniest bit! They will then beat you down with your mistake and never let you hear the end of it.
Realize that these people are only looking for the slightest infraction to maximize and use against you. They will twist, spin, or add to the most trivial thing you do that’s not quite right to make it bigger and more severe. Something as minuscule as knocking over a glass of milk will be made into a Federal case and they’ll swear you did it deliberately.
If they see you talking to a member of the opposite sex, they’ll swear up and down you’re trying to get laid. But if you happen to be saving yourself for your wedding night, they’ll only call you a prude.
If you take one sip of wine, they’ll call you a sloppy, fall-down drunk. But if you don’t drink, they’ll call you a party pooper, boring, or a stick in the mud. They’ll make statements like, “Well, he just doesn’t know how to have a good time!”
You will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
You must realize that when the bullying and mass degradation of you gets this bad and seems to permeate the whole of the environment, the hatred and contempt for you reaches such a crescendo that it’s has turned into mass mental illness in those around you. At this point, it more than likely won’t get better. It will only get worse until either one of them murders you or forces you to do it yourself.
At this juncture, the best thing you can do for yourself is to run! These people are dangerous and you must get as far away from them and stay away!
However, you decide to do it, get these people out of your life, and keep them out because these are people, you will never be safe around!
If you’re a target of bullying, people will naturally expect you not to open your mouth about the harassment. Not only your bullies themselves but often bystanders and authority will automatically side with the bullies.
But, it still doesn’t mean that you stay silent because standing up for yourself shows bravery and strength and you’re well within your rights to do so.
However, I want you to be prepared for the following hurtful responses you’re likely to get when you finally do begin speaking against the mistreatment.
Here they are:
1. “You’re being too sensitive.” Understand that when people respond this way, they’re only shifting the blame to you and trying to shame you into keeping quiet about it. People who tell you this might be friends or followers of the bullies or have a personal interest in keeping you quiet, such as the reputation of the school or company, the bullies may be kin to them somehow, or the bullies may be perceived as “good for the school’s or company’s reputation.” But don’t be ashamed to speak out. You must keep the pressure on even if the bullying gets worse. Understand that things usually get worse before they get better. But they will get better.
2. “Just Ignore Them.” This never works, as bullies only become angry at being ignored and escalate the bullying. Or, they may mistake ignoring for fear. And if a bully gets in your face, how do you ignore that? It’s impossible. You might think that the best way to handle it is to put your hand up and walk around the bully and it IS a good response. But how do you know the bully won’t come after you and attack you from behind once you’ve walked past them?
Understand that when people tell you to ignore the bully, what this means is that they either don’t want to hear about it, don’t want to deal with it, or don’t have any answers themselves.
3. “Toughen up.” Again. The people who could help you don’t want to get involved. So they put it all on you. By telling you to toughen up, they’re shifting the blame onto you and trying to shame you into staying silent. Also, when you tell a target to toughen up, you’re only asking for things between the target and bully to escalate because the target will take it as a green light to tell the bully to shove it up his you-know-where or haul off and knock the idiot’s block off. Not that it’s a bad thing because, in my opinion, bullies deserve a good whack in the nose.
But those in authority have no right to tell the target to toughen up, then turn around and punish him when he finally does.
Respond to this by saying, “No. It’s not about toughing up. It’s about asserting my right to be treated with decency and I don’t have to take that mess.” And when you say it, say it with conviction.
4. “Get over it.”
5. “Don’t be a crybaby.”
6. “Stop whining.”
7. “Don’t be a tattletale.”
8. Maybe you should just stay out of their way.
All of the above nuggets of advice are only meant to shame and silence you. Bullying is no different from any other form of abuse. It thrives on secrecy. If you don’t speak out about it, the bullying and abuse will only continue, even escalate.
Defending their rights concept. Silhouette of hands pointing, denouncing the hand that defends their rights
I realize that getting these kinds of responses makes you feel even worse and there’s a temptation to clam up and burrow back into your hole. But don’t! You must refuse to keep quiet about it!
Keep speaking out about it. When people give you any of the above responses, that’s when you should only double down, dig your heels in and speak louder! Because only when a problem is addressed does it have the potential to be solved.
It may get worse before it gets better, but there’s always a chance that it will get better when you verbally protest the bullying. And no matter the outcome, you’ll feel so much better about yourself knowing you took a stand.
Schools are supposed to protect children. And some schools do help targets of bullying. I’ve read quite a few stories with this happy ending and to those schools, I extend my love and respect.
However, I’ve also read and heard stories in which the school either failed or refused to help the victim and only sided with the bullies and I also found this out years ago from experience. And sadly, this ending is much more common than the first.
Therefore, if you are an object of bullying at your school, do take the proper channels to address the problem and get it solved. Report the bullying to the teacher, principal, or district.
But if the school does nothing about it, sweeps it under the rug, or worse, blames you, don’t be surprised. And don’t be surprised if you face retaliation not only from the bullies but from school staff and officials as well.
Understand that in these cases where the school doesn’t act on your behalf, it is because the school district is only interested in the sports programs, how many points an athlete can score for their school team, getting their football team into the playoffs, and how many kids they can send to colleges.
Another thing to consider is that school bullies likely have connections with several local politicians and other high-ranking officials. Also, many bullies who excel academically or are star athletes make the school look good and are least likely to be held accountable.
And seasoned bullies tend to be exceptionally socially intelligent and know how to ingratiate themselves into the good graces of teachers and school staff. They are also wordsmiths who are experts at feigning victimhood, explaining everything away, and rationalizing their bad behavior, which often makes the target look like the bully.
So, these are a few things to consider should you find yourself a target, report the bullying and the school fail to respond to your pleas for help.
But don’t give up. Remember. You are worth fighting for! You are worth living for!