Dr. Dawn Hughes testified for the prosecution on sexual victimization.
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Dr. Dawn Hughes, Expert Witness on Sex Abuse Takes the Stand

By Dianne Lipson

Thursday Morning, June 6th.  The 18th day of the trial of the US v. Keith Alan Raniere.

Before the start of testimony, Judge Nicholas Garaufis came in wearing his robes, which was unusual for him. He said that this was the anniversary of D-Day [June 6, 1944. More than160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy.] The judge said there had been 10,000 casualties in Normandy on this day.  They were fighting fascism.  These young men gave their lives and we owe our freedom to them. He asked for a moment of silence.

Afterward, FBI Special Agent Meagan Rees returned to the stand to conclude her direct examination.

The jury was shown a photo of black curtains from Cami’s condo at 120 Victory Way.

There was a nude photo of Camilla shown to the jury – her private parts were redacted but a surgical scar [from appendicitis operation she had at age 16] and another scar she had on top of her leg was visible.

Rees testified how the government obtained WhatsApp chats of Raniere and Cami. They were downloads of the WhatsApp chats, downloaded to Cami’s email and, therefore, they were no longer encrypted. The chats themselves were encrypted and unavailable to the prosecution. They became available because Cami saved these to her email account.

Cross-examination was brief and uneventful.

Called to the stand next was Dr. Dawn Hughes, a psychologist. She has worked 20 years in her field. She’s a Ph.D., and is a clinical and forensic psychologist. She specializes in interpersonal violence and traumatic stress. She’s worked in different settings and is board certified in forensic psychology. She is one of only 375 board certified members in the US in her category.

She testified that she has no knowledge about this case other than reports she read in the media.

She offered an overview, not based on anything she knew about the case.

The jury got a crash course in sexual assault.

Part of her role she said is to explain misconceptions about sexual assault. She pointed out that 80% of victims know the perpetrator, a conservative estimate when perpetrators are even reported.

She testified:

In the immediate aftermath of sexual assault, the victim is shocked. They may have self-doubt. Victims blame themselves. They sometimes think they did something to bring it about, or they gave the wrong impression.  Victims during the assault often experience “disassociation”-  “I left my body” or “I was just waiting for it to be over.”

They condemn themselves. They may appear normal, or calm, while inside they’re freaking out. Ongoing trauma can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, pain and humiliation. It can lead to denial. Disclosure is often a process that unfolds over time. Sometimes, it takes years before a victim finally decides to go to a therapist. Some people report abuse decades after it happened.

There are many psychological outcomes such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, shame, humiliation, self-loathing, eating disorders, and substance abuse. If the perpetrators are held in high esteem, there is a cost-benefit analysis that victims often calculate in deciding whether to report it. Victims sometimes maintain their relationships with the perpetrator.  For instance, if it is their boss, it may be difficult to get out of the situation.

Perpetrators sometimes do gaslighting, there can be threats of negative consequences to reporting, for instance, calling immigration services, sending their family naked photos [revenge porn], social isolation and indoctrination – which erodes independent thought, making sure the perpetrator dominates and that only the perpetrator’s point of view counts. The victim’s point of view means nothing. Subjugation, which is treating the person like a servant, and surveillance –when the perpetrator wants to know everything, he wants to micromanage all aspects of the victim’s life, to see her phone, check her odometer, see the mileage, ask questions about where the victim was at all times or any time – is not uncommon.

It creates a sense for the victim that the perpetrator knows everything. The victim feels she has no escape. Secrecy, of course, is another factor. Intimidation, stalking, micromanaging health, hygiene, looking at undergarments, even examining her vagina, are tools of the perpetrator.

All this has a cumulative, detrimental effect.

Then there is economic abuse. The perpetrator who controls the finances. The goal of the perpetrator is to maintain power. He has no regard for the impact on the victim. He is completely self-serving.

If a victim remains in the abusive relationship, they may remain out of a sense of powerlessness.

Victims often end up placating their abusers. Sometimes, they comply even before they are asked.

The victim often attempts to make it look like nothing’s wrong. Sometimes, if somebody like their boss raped them, they can still say, “Oh, it was nice to see you yesterday.” That’s adaptive behavior.

Abuse can be interspersed with good experiences, which is why they got into the relationship in the first place before the abuse happened.

Dr. Hughes was asked if victims want to be abused. [Freud had a theory that sexual abuse victims were often actually masochistic.]

Dr. Hughes said absolutely not. She has never met one woman who wants to be sexually abused.

To determine if the relationship is consensual, factors like control, degrading behavior, shame, self-loathing have to be considered.

Then we got to the cross-examination. For the first time, the jury got to witness Paul DerOhannesian ask questions.

He asked how much she made an hour. She answered $500 per hour.

She said she does clinical work in addition to forensic work.

DerOhannesian asked what percentage of her income comes from clinical. She said about 40% of her income comes from clinical and about 60% comes from forensic work.

She was asked if she knew anybody from the case. She said no.

She said that a psychologist cannot give an informed opinion on a person unless she personally assessed them.

DerOhannesian asked her if in her practice, when people claim they are sexually abused does she just take their word for it.

She said she makes an assessment and makes sure the story makes sense. She doesn’t believe everything everyone says.

DerOhannesian said, “You don’t challenge the underlying facts they report to you?”

She said only if the story does not make sense.

He asked her about “secondary gain” which is when a person has a gain of reporting such as a monetary gain or another motive to bring somebody to court. A person can be motivated also to avoid responsibility for their conduct. She said yes that can be true, money can be a secondary gain. She said it can be a motivating factor.

He asked if a motivating factor can be retaliation. She said yes.

He asked if a secondary gain can be used as a reason to fabricate an accusation.

She said there are ways to assess when people are not telling the truth. She said a person can exaggerate or minimize.

It was discussed that some people can falsely produce psychological symptoms. They may also have underlying mental issues, emotional issues.

It was elicited that there is no one definition of unwanted sexual conduct. There are many definitions but no one psychological definition.

He asked if she was familiar with a study that concerned 67 documented false accusations of sexual abuse. She wasn’t familiar with the study

He went over the idea that the number one reason for false reporting is called “emotional regret”, that a person regrets having sex, and is now trying to cover up their behavior.


The morning ended.


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  • Dr. Hughes established that Dani’s seeming attachment to Raniere during her confinement doesn’t mean she wasn’t abused. An important point for the prosecution.

    “Dr. Hughes was asked if victims want to be abused… Dr. Hughes said absolutely not. She has never met one woman who wants to be sexually abused.” That’s a bit surprising, a clinical psychologist who claims to know nothing about the BDSM community. Some people’s idea of heaven is being tied up and whacked with a stick.

    • “Dr. Hughes was asked if victims want to be abused… Dr. Hughes said absolutely not. She has never met one woman who wants to be sexually abused.” That’s a bit surprising, a clinical psychologist who claims to know nothing about the BDSM community. Some people’s idea of heaven is being tied up and whacked with a stick.” Actaeon
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  • This attorney is an idiot. Cami was not on the stand and she is not looking for monetary gain nor is her sister Dani.

    There is no defense for Keith or any of the other defendants. That’s why they all took a plea.

    Raniere is delusional and thinks he can win at trial! Bye bye Keith!

  • Oh how I wish she would have secretly read up on Keith before taking the stand. So she can crucify him where he sits. Oh well, I hope her testimony hurts him.

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