Dr. Dawn Hughes, Expert Witness on Sex Abuse Takes the Stand

Dr. Dawn Hughes testified for the prosecution on sexual victimization.

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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Frank Parlato

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The Psychology of Defense Attorney, Paul Der Ohannesian
The Psychology of Defense Attorney, Paul Der Ohannesian
4 years ago

Der Ohannesian is not attacking Cami, he is attacking the prosecution’s whole basis for the case: that these complaints have arisen because the “victims” have emotional regret about their sexual behavior and getting revenge is their way to alleviate their own guilt, shame and helplessness. Der Ohannesian is attempting to bring it back to the accountability and motivation of the witnesses/victims.

Clearly, someone like Barbara Bouchey is a jilted lover seeking revenge and publication of her book. And, Toni may have revenge motivations and Heidi may be seeking to deal with her own guilt and helplessness about allowing her sister, Gina to participate in Nxivm?

These are all grey areas. Human motivation is rarely pure. Even with forensic examination, the evidence is evaluated according to theories. And, the theories may conflict and depend on the personal, social, economic and political motivations of the theorist.

What you seeing play out is the prosecution presenting their ‘expert’ who will be very sensitive to the rights of the victim and the defense countering it with exposing the mixed motivations (secondary gains) of the recipients/victims.

Unfortunately, for the defense it will be very hard to “explain away” nude photos of a 15 year old, a sexual relationship with them and the branding and coerciion of DOS slaves via this strategy. People under the age of consent are not accountable for their actions and people forced to participate or have their collateral released are no longer willing participants

4 years ago

Leone Festinger is back!!!!!

4 years ago

Paul, your name sounds sooo familiar. I have to recheck the records, maybe some of our Pipino relations back in Clifton Park can run over to the Saratoga Court house since I’m a little snowed under right now, But I believe you were representing a group of buyers back about ‘84 – ‘90 in a land purchase deal in Clifton Park?

My mom kept turning down the offer to keep the land in the fam, she thought the lawyers were crooks wanted to make an honest sale and please everyone but she was getting flack from the rest of the family who already carved out more than their share hitting up our grandma, who didn’t speak a word of English, to build their construction bizness’. What a bizarre coincidence that would be if you repped that deal?

Scott Johnson
4 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

I doubt Paul reads the comments on this website, and even if he does he’s not going to respond to your crazy comments.

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago
Reply to  Actaeon

“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
Just a quick Google search gave me the names of several BDSM clubs in the Albany New York area.

Albany Power eXchange
Albany Power eXchange (APeX) is a not for profit BDSM social, educational, and … with several other groups, and discounts at several local and national BDSM …

La Domaine Esemar: The World’s Oldest BDSM Chateau
La Domaine Esemar – The world’s oldest BDSM training chateau. Meet a professional dominatrix in Albany, NYC. Nourish your kinky desires.

BDSM Albany – Kinksters, Parties & More | Fetish.com
https://www.fetish.com › United States › New York
Join our BDSM community for FREE. Meet kinksters and discover munches, fetish parties and dungeons in Albany. Live out your kinks at Fetish.com!

Kink Lifestyle – Adult Albany
Kinky Lifestyle Albany After Dark WebSite will have many areas dealing with … SM Esemar@aol.com BDSM Clubs and Night Spots Paddles 250 West 26th …

Albany – The Munch+Adult Local Links (MALL) Directory
Provides information on the Albany BDSM Munch and other organized local BDSM …. Kink friendly Christian members of the local BDSM community who also …

4 years ago

Consensual adult BDSM is not abuse – and it’s not even inherently sexual. In particular, the providers on your list couldn’t bring sex into it, or they’d risk being busted for prostitution.

It’s not my thing, but the people I’ve run across who were into it, seemed remarkably principled about it. The way BDSM is practiced by those who are into it seems not to be sexualized, in contrast to how it is popularly portrayed.

As I’ve pointed out before, the manipulative and coercive nature of DOS is highlighted in contrast to the practices of BDSM, where there are strict norms and practices of ongoing full consent.

4 years ago
Reply to  AnonyMaker

I don’t know, AnonyMaker… You sure seem to know a lot about BDSM..
My mind’s eye has shadow peering in the windows of his above listed Albany establishments, and seeing a principled AnonyMaker practicing safe words.

4 years ago
Reply to  Nutjob

I am dying laughing right now! Thanks nutjob I needed a good laugh at the end of Friday

4 years ago
Reply to  Actaeon

Yes, this is what is interesting – so little coming out about “normal” BDSM stuff and inclinations/innate sexuality – I suppose because most of the female witnesses have made it clear that is not their sexuality and they did not want it so it was not ordinary consensual BDSM (which many of those things the psychologist descibes when consenual are not illegal or abusive).

4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

The problem for the prosecution is that the women in DOS– and DOS seems to be at the heart of this case– kinda sorta did want to be branded. None of them as far as I can tell changed their minds at the last minute and said ‘hey get the f**k away from me with that cauterizing pen.’ They of course had given ‘collateral’ by that point, and the consent they gave was by no stretch informed consent. But still, there’s enough ambiguity to raise questions, this is not a case of people being forced absolutely against their will. And even the prosecution’s best witnesses seem to have been in love with Keith, willing even to share him with the other women if that’s what it took.

The prosecution has a clear advantage in that the general public is horrified at the idea of BDSM. And kinky sexy stuff that people might be okay with takes on a very different look in the somber environs of a court room. I doubt very much that any juror is going to go to bat for Raniere during deliberations. The prosecution has succeeded in painting him as a dirtbag. Which to be honest, he is.

I’d like to think that this trial will decided on cold hard facts, and facts alone. It will probably be decided mostly on emotion.

4 years ago

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!

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

THe defense attorneys are tools.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankreport76@gmail.com


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