Movement Leadership and Manipulation Tactics


DARVO is a term coined by Dr. Jennifer Freyd (2018) that refers to the behaviors perpetrators of wrongdoing tend to show when being held accountable for their actions.

It stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse the Victim and Offender.

Deny refers to actions that the perpetrator takes to assume the role of “falsely accused” and includes:

  • Ignoring the problem or person holding them accountable
  • Minimizing the problem


Movement leadership has exhibited this behavior by:

  • Ignoring a majority of the input they received from gym members and employees (local and nationwide)
  • When they did respond, they simply doubled-down on the decision, saying it was necessary
  • Saying that the “pause” and the way they handled it really isn’t a problem; it’s actually them being responsible because they’re dedicated to delivering great classes to members


Attack refers to hostile actions the perpetrator takes towards the victim. Many times “attack” is subtle, especially in cases of institutional DARVO where it may be illegal to outright attack the victim.

Movement leadership exhibited this behavior by:

  • Firing employees for supporting Chi Movement Solidarity’s efforts to hold them accountable
  • Firing a supervisor for emailing the yoga and fitness instructors to wish them well after they received the news of the program cancellations
  • Saying, “Bridges burn both ways” about the possibility of bringing back former instructors who were simply trying to communicate with them (also an example of Reverse Victim and Offender)

Reverse Victim and Offender

Reverse the Victim and Offender refers to any actions the perpetrator takes to make it seem like the victim is taking things too far in holding them accountable, that they, the perpetrator are the real victim.

Movement leadership exhibited this behavior in the email from Tony Ferrari about classes re-launching by the end of March by:

  • Acting like they had no choice. “This difficult decision was made after carefully assessing the financial sustainability & participation trends of these programs” —this decision was necessary and had nothing to do with mistakes leading up to the decision.
  • Giving a non-apology in the form of “I’m sorry you’re upset” (We “regret the disruption this has caused”)
  • Offering empty promises with no action to support them. They promise to bring back instructors, but after over a week, the only communication we’ve heard is that one of the 4 instructors who were hired the same week that classes were “paused” may have been offered a position. Is this what they mean by “returning instructors”?
  • Co-opting the specific language we have been using in our social media and in the petition:
    • “…committed to bringing back exceptional yoga and fitness experiences at our Chicago gyms in a sustainable way.” Sustainable was in original drafts of the petition and social media communications, but we removed it, as it wasn’t clear what “sustainable” actually means and looks like in practice.
    • “We will partner with both returning and new instructors.” We’ve been continuously pushing the word “partner” through our campaign and asking for the return of former instructors. To this point, they have not communicated with former instructors, so this is also an empty promise.
    • “[We] look forward to collaborating with you, our Chicago community.” Our entire campaign focuses on the importance of collaboration and community.

Using our language would be fantastic if and only if it came with accountability.

But because the entire context is Movement leadership denying, attacking, and reversing the roles of victim and offender while never taking accountability for what led to this decision needed to be made in the first place, this is alarming and consistent with manipulative behavior.

@custodypeace has a pro-tip on recognizing if it’s DARVO or you overreacting:

“If someone immediately denies an accusation and then attacks you in the next nanosecond, there’s your red flag.”

But, the good news is that the more we are aware of DARVO, the less effective it is.

Sign the Petition

If you agree that Movement leadership needs to accept accountability for the actions that led to this “much-needed business decision” instead of using manipulative tactics to avoid responsibility, then you should sign our petition.

It’s only through accountability that we can grow as institutions (like businesses) and as people.

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