Deny, Attack, Reversing Victim and Offender (DARVO) in the Personality Disordered

“I need to fax you the affidavit Ex filed, it is 66 pages long, and you need to respond ASAP” the para-legal told me over the phone.

Photo by Özge Gürer

Photo by Özge Gürer

I went to a neighbor’s house and read the fax as it was coming in.

Line after line were false allegations. Accusations that had nothing to do with the truth, but everything with what Ex was doing himself. I was shocked. Surely he didn’t believe himself what he was accusing me of?

It was so bizarre, this couldn’t really be happening. The first 4 weeks after I was served with the divorce papers Ex filed numerous affidavits, over 130 pages in total; all unsubstantiated allegations, without supporting documents.

I was bewildered, how could somebody whom I thought loved me at least at one point, whom I had shared a life with, whom I had children with, could come out with such a vengeance. Why all the hate? And what was even more puzzling was that what he accused me off, was what he was doing himself. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

Yet this type of behavior is common enough that psychology has a term for it.

“DARVO refers to a reaction that perpetrators of wrong doing, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. 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 into an alleged offender.”  Dr Jennifer Freyd, PhD

This sounded all too familiar. Realizing I was not the only one dealing with this brought peace of mind and gave me the strength to see things how they are.

About a year into the divorce proceedings, Ex had information that could ONLY come from my computer. Through a forensic computer expert I found out Ex was forwarding my emails to his corporate email account, and that my computer had been remotely accessed several times. I took this information to the Sheriff’s who told me that it would be a Felony charge and Ex would go to prison for several years.

I didn’t want the father of the children to go to prison, so I asked for some time to decide if I wanted to pursue this.

I felt deeply violated and was extremely stressed out about it. Was nothing safe? At the next custody exchange, I babbled my mouth and told Ex he was being investigated by the Sheriff’s. Not very smart, I know. Within the hour, Ex went to the State Troopers with the emails he forwarded to himself and filed false criminal harassment charges. The charges were eventually dismissed by the DA after he saw the evidence.

So not only did Ex deny he hacked my computer, he turned it around and attacked by filing false criminal charge where he plays the victim when he is the perpetrator.

DARVO is characterized by denial and gaslighting, followed by projection, blame shifting and lying. The pillars of a cluster B personality disorder. A personality disordered person needs to externalize blame by persuading others that their internal problems are external, caused by something else or someone else. By blaming others for everything that’s wrong in their lives they keep the focus off the real problem; themselves.

 “Once others are persuaded to get the problem backward, the dispute escalates into a long-term, high-conflict situation. One that few people other than persuasive blamers can tolerate” — Bill Eddy ‘High Conflict People in Legal Disputes’ 

An alternate reality is created by lies. Parents who engage in this behavior often can’t substantiate their claims or, if they just make up more lies to try to substantiate it, just like Ex’s unsubstantiated statements in his numerous affidavits.

A psychopath engages in this behavior ruthlessly and intentionally. They don’t care, they use it as means to whatever their goal may be.

“People with antisocial personalities are the most persuasive blamers of all, because they have been lying all their lives and lack remorse. They don’t care if they destroy their former partners, and they often don’t care if they are found out. They just spin another tale, and often they get away with it.” — Bill Eddy and Randi Kreger. “Splitting.

Filing false criminal charges with the emails Ex forwarded to himself is a pretty good example to which extend of deception, or spinning of another tale, a psychopath is willing to go. So what is his motivation?

Money.

Ex’s testimony during trial gave good insight into his true reason for fighting for custody. He angrily said he wasn’t going to pay me alimony and the least amount of child support. Getting away with filing false sexual abuse charges with CPS would have helped him greatly to gain full custody and not have to pay child support at all.

Psychologically healthy parents deny false accusations during the divorce proceedings, however, they do it fastly different. Denial is not evidence of guilt. How do you know if an individual’s denial is the truth or an instance of DARVO?

One of the main factors is that an innocent person does not go on the attack, they defend themselves by their own evidence and behavior. For instance, Ex enjoys shooting and torturing cats. When he no longer could deny that he shoots cats, he accused me of making him shoot cats for population control (blame shifting, justification/rationalization and playing victim all in one). As if that all of a sudden made it ok to kill pets.

“ The attack will also likely focus on ad hominem (arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic) instead of intellectual/evidential issues. ” — Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24)

I defended myself by stating that I am a vegetarian, and if I oppose large animal slaughter, I surely would oppose slaughter of pets. I also provided the custody evaluator with evidence of my involvement with the SPCA and receipts of bringing cats to them. My defense was not based on emotion, but on logic and evidence.

Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to insinuate that what they present as the truth can logically be proven, without actually substantiating their statements. They take advantage of the confusion they create by redefining reality.

Individuals who have been exposed to DARVO consciously or unconsciously know when they hold the offender accountable there will be retaliation. Often we hear when they finally get the courage to bring issues to the attention of courts, law enforcement etc, they ‘wuss out’. They don’t follow through. The battered spouse who gets a restraining order, but then returns to the abuser and dismisses the RO.

I’m guilty of that. I didn’t follow through. I thought I had just present clear-cut 3rd party (logical) evidence to the judge and all would be good.

I did finally grow a spine and followed up with the Sheriff’s with regards to the hacking. The evidence was passed on to the FBI who are now preparing the case.

 

15 thoughts on “Deny, Attack, Reversing Victim and Offender (DARVO) in the Personality Disordered

  1. This is the page that hurts and confuses me the most. Ex must ‘have’ (?) DARVO — for example, he takes our child on school nights to his ‘new’ GFs house 2 hours away in another state, and always texts me. When I tell him I’m not happy that he does this (it makes no sense to me that this ‘needs’ to happen on a school night) and try to get out of him how it benefits our child, he first says what he’s doing ‘isn’t illegal’ (it’s not, I guess) and then he gets extremely defensive and says he only does it because it makes me upset and therefore he has every reason to do it (ie it’s my fault he ‘has’ to drive 2+ hours on a major freeway to his GFs house in another state after school to have sex, and then get up at the crack of dawn the next day to get child back to school in time). Um. OK.
    Everything he does is ‘because’ of me and my reactions to what he was already doing… (Huh?).
    The more I read the DARVO description the more clear it gets. Doesn’t make it hurt less, less aggravating or scary, but it’s more clear.

    Like

    • I apologize for the LONG delay in replying! It sounds like your ex tries to keep engaging with you, you likes to keep you in the circle, but only to hurt you. You have to work on boundaries and not let him in. He wants to hurt you, but he can only hurt you as much as you allow him to hurt you! When he figures out it doesn’t hurt you, he will stop this and resort to try to do different things that would hurt you, so you have to keep on your tippy toes!

      If he does things that are not against the court order, you have to ‘let it slide’, while at the same time YOU ARE DOCUMENTING HIS BEHAVIOR! This is clearly not in the best interest of the child, so safe the text messages that he is doing this on a school night, let him tighten the noose around his neck slowly but steadily.

      He does this on purpose, it is to hurt you, the fact that the child suffers because of it, is completely irrelevant to him. But it is relevant for the courts.

      Hugs to you! You will get through this, and after a while, when you are more and more able to distance yourself and not let him drive you bonkers, you will be so much better!

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