How to Hold A Covert Narcissist Accountable: An Introduction to DARVO.

Sherile Turner-Myles
5 min readJun 5, 2023

DARVO, an acronym for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender, is a defensive strategy frequently utilised by individuals accused of wrongdoing, particularly in the context of relational abuse. Coined by psychologist Jennifer J. Freyd in the late 1990s, this concept has provided a crucial framework to understand and articulate the manipulative tactics employed by abusers, such as covert narcissists.

Photo by Saif71.com on Unsplash

Covert narcissistic abuse often unfolds behind closed doors and is, therefore, much more difficult to detect compared to overt abuse. It is a subtle, devious, and often long-term form of manipulation that can gradually wear down a person’s self-esteem, security, and identity. These covert actions form a psychological minefield, setting traps that can explode in emotional damage when inadvertently triggered.

In the denial phase, the narcissist dismisses or outright rejects the claims or feelings of the victim. This can cause the victim to question their own judgement, leading to self-doubt and confusion. When the narcissist then attacks, they attempt to shift the focus onto perceived flaws or wrongs of the victim, reinforcing the sense of self-doubt and even instilling a sense of guilt.

The final move in this tactic is one of the most disorienting — the narcissist flips the…

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Sherile Turner-Myles

I write about Covert Narcissism and other Personality Disorders, and how they impact relationships.