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NXIVM: Expert testimony on the myths and misconceptions of sexual assault

[Dr. Dawn Hughes]

Dianne Lipson is out from the morning session in the Nxivm trial, and has this report for us…

Judge Nicholas Garaufis came into court wearing his robes (which he hadn’t been) and reminded everyone that today was D-Day. He asked for a moment of silence.

Yesterday’s testimony about Camilla, based on material from her email account, finished up with some photographs of her.

Keith Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo did a short cross-examination, mainly to establish that after the chat logs had been downloaded from WhatsApp, they were no longer encrypted.

There was then a new witness, Dr. Dawn Hughes, a board-certified forensic psychologist.


She gave a crash course in myths and misconceptions about sexual assault. (Her testimony was about sexual assault in general. She had not met with any person involved in the Nxivm case.)

Some of the points she made: Victims usually know their perpetrators. Hughes talked a lot about what happens to the victim after an assault. How they avoid their feelings. A lot of times they are unwilling to report the assault, especially if perpetrator is in high esteem or someone they rely on financially.

If it’s ongoing trauma, that increases feelings of hopelessness. The victim can look calm but be freaking out inside.

Things that can make people report over time is that they can realize they are ready to report, or there are media reports about crimes that are similar to what they’ve gone through. Sometimes people report after decades. They will often go through a cost-benefit analysis of reporting.

She talked about what offenders do to their victims. There can be gaslighting, making a person think they’re crazy. Sometimes there are threats. And social isolation. Keeping a victim away from people close to them. Indoctrination.

Perpetrators are motivated to establish dominance: Their point of view matters, the victim’s doesn’t.

They subjugate their victims, them them like their job is to serve him. This creates a sense of omnipotence by the perpetrator.

Often there’s control of the victim’s body. Dominating their health or weight, etc. The goal is to maintain power. There’s no regard for well being of the victim.

Hughes said there are many misconceptions about the victim remaining in an abusive relationship. Women often try to placate their abuser. The victim adapts, and makes it seem like nothing’s wrong.

Abuse can be interspersed with good experiences, she points out.

But victims are not masochistic and do not want to be sexually abused, she says.

In cross-examination, by attorney Paul DerOhannesian, he wanted to know how much she was making: $500 an hour.

Have you ever testified on behalf of anyone accused of assault? No. And she doesn’t treat offenders.

You met no individual in this case? No.

Do you assume that someone has been sexually assaulted because someone says so? No, she said.

He brought up the concept of “secondary gain” for a victim testifying against a perpetrator. That can be a factor, she admitted. (Motives like money, revenge, retaliation, etc.)

He brought up the idea that there can be a power differential in a relationship and it could still be consensual: Yes, she agreed.

He again brought up the concept of secondary gain again, and asked her about a study that looked at 57 false accusations of sexual abuse. She wasn’t familiar with it.

He said the number one reason for false accusations was emotional regret after a relationship.

And that was the morning session. Dianne is going back in for the afternoon.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 6, 2019 at 13:45

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Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects at The Underground Bunker. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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