DARVO: Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.

When a bully gets caught – they tend to act very predictably. So predictably that if you weren’t sure whether the accusations are true or not – if they engage in certain predictable behavior after being accused, it’s a good indicator that they did something they shouldn’t have.

Turns out there is a term for this. It’s called DARVO, an acronym for deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender. When someone not only denies, but attacks the accuser and claims to be the victim of the other person’s aggression – that’s pretty typical bullying behavior.

Most people who are innocent – don’t usually respond this way. People who do – aren’t usually in control of their behavior

There is a link to an article about this over at the Chicago Tribune. It’s about R Kelly’s outburst during a TV interview. But our president does this. Brent Kavanaugh did this and it’s a pretty common response when powerful people are accused of wrong doing. They deny, attack and claim they are the victim.


This doesn’t mean they aren’t victims. but it is a predictable response from someone used to getting away with bad behavior.

The psychologist interviewed in the article, Freyd, said they would like to see widespread condemnation for responses like R. Kelly’s, whether or not we believe the person is guilty. “You don’t have to respond this way; some people don’t. You can respond with dignity and humanity. You don’t have to attack the person; you can do it in a way that doesn’t shut down conversation.”

I have been saying this for years. Bullies are very predictable. We can use their predictability to help us a) figure out what is really going and and b) we can use this to better control the dynamic. But most of all – we have to stop tolerating bad behavior from people.

If someone is wrongly accused, they should still act responsibly and work with investigators to get to the truth. Ranting and raving about fighting – is evidence of someone who isn’t actually in control of their behavior. And we should recognize that and deal with it accordingly.