DR. MINDY MECHANIC
Friday, September 1, 2011
DIRECT of DR. MINDY MECHANIC
[The judge gives a direction to the jury: You are hearing testimony about rape trauma. This does not relate to the D’s possible guilt. It relates to the believability of the four women’s testimony in relation to the behavior of such victims of rape trauma.]
Dr. Mindy Mechanic is an associate professor of psychology at CAL State Fullerton. Her immediate prior occupation was a research faculty supervisor at University of Missouri, St Louis where she worked in the Center for Trauma Recovery. The Center is devoted to violence and victimization. They have three missions: research, teaching and training, and a clinic. Their research has been federally funded through grants. In their clinic they offer therapy and evaluation of the victims.) Dr. Mechanic has a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Since the mid-1990s she has trained other people: students (undergraduate and graduate) and Continuing Education for Professionals (social workers, medical professionals, nurses, court staff, attorneys). Dr. Mechanic works with a huge amount of sexual assault survivors as a therapist and researcher. At the Center for Trauma Recovery, Dr. Mechanic did a study on sexual assault survivors. She personally conducted interview. Dr. Mechanic has published thirtysomething peer-reviewed articles. She has testified on sexual trauma in court for the Prosecution before but mainly Defense.
Dr. Mechanic explains that rape trauma is assessed often through the status of the perpetrator vis-à-vis the victim: acquaintance, intimate, and stranger. There are notable differences in the dynamics of the relationship and consequences and impact between stranger and acquaintance rape. A first difference is context or where the incident happened. A stranger is often outside. An acquaintance rape often happens in the home of the victim or the perpetrator or known environment. Weapons, guns, knives are associated with stranger assault. Dr. Mechanic’s testimony is in general and hasn’t reviewed the testimony in this case.
Society has a script, according to Dr. Mechanic, for what rape is. She likes to call it “stranger danger” notion. We think of a stranger jumping out of a bush with a gun when we define rape in our minds not an acquaintance or intimate person. The dynamics are also different between stranger rape and acquaintance rape. Stranger rape often employs more force, element of surprising and subduing. Acquaintance rape involves seduction, coercion and incapacitation (eg. getting the victim drunk). The consequences are also different. PTSD, depression, and anxiety are all common in all types of rape and equally likely to manifest. What the incident means to the victim differs. Acquaintance rape victims have a hard time to acknowledge that the rape was a rape, because it doesn’t fit “stranger danger” script and conflicts with core beliefs. We all have core beliefs (safety, trust, we like to think we choose friends and partners wisely, people are good, particularly the situations we put ourselves in are safe.) When someone we know or trust assaults us, that belief system is jolted. What results from acquaintance rape are the following two ideas:
- People and the world are good.
- The perpetrator took advantage of me (the victim) and people are bad.
Cognitively, the victim has to reconcile two ideas, she can’t hold two conflicting ideas at the same time. Victims of acquaintance rape denies or distorts the event to preserve the first idea. Belief systems are bigger and longer than one experience; it is easier and economically efficient cognitively to make a rape “not a rape.”
Every victim’s response to trauma is different, this includes any kind of trauma (E.g, an earthquake, all of us react different, some of us make freeze, flee, or fight.) There is always a difference in immediate reactions (middle of the incident and right after.) The three responses are:
Often acquaintance rape victims freeze or shutdown. This is an absence of emotion or behavior. The person is dissociated. This third type of reaction is the hardest for outsiders and police to understand. Dr. Mechanic says, “It’s like a circuit breaker, if there’s too much, the system shuts down.” This may seem counterintuitive to others: we assume the victim ought to act distress or call 911. This especially true if the victim has been victimized before or had a childhood history of abuse. They may have a dissociative response.
CROSS-EX of DR MINDY MECHANIC
When Dr. Mechanic interview victims and trains people to interview victims the training centers on getting information from the victim and making sure the information is procured in a reliable and valid fashion. The goal of the interview is to get what happened, assess the immediate reaction and after the fact, coping, and symptoms. There is an assumption that the victim is telling the truth. Study subjects for Dr. Mechanic’s studies with Center come from the St Louis Police Reports. Dr. Mechanic does not train interviewers to probe inconsistencies. There is no attempt to make corroboration. Dr. Mechanic maintains that is the work of the police. They do not conduct investigation; “It would be inappropriate.” Dr. Mechanic has not heard any facts in this case. Dr. Mechanic is not making any conclusions that D is guilty or the victims are liars. People have an idea of “stranger danger” but the concept of “date rape” pervades the media, college, high school sexual education is preventive on matter. Nowadays, “date rape” is commonly accepted. Dr. Mechanic maintains that while date rape is accepted our ideas of a definition of “rape” still go back to the “stranger danger” picture. Victims of trauama can act in a way that is inconsistent of counterintuitive. But Dr. Mechanic states that this does not imply an infinite range of reactions. Dr. Mechanic states that the behaviour of the victim will not tell you if the victim has been victimized: “You can’t reason backwards.” Just because someone reacts that way doesn’t tell us if they were raped or not.