NEWS
11/09/2011 02:03 EST | Updated 01/09/2012 05:12 EST

Calgary torture trial hears victims become dependent on their abusers

CALGARY - An expert on human captivity testifying at a torture trial says abuse victims often become so dependent on their attackers they are unable to leave the situation.

"They're powerless, helpless. This is what they are stuck in. They have to make do. They have to focus on keeping the captive happy and live moment to moment," Dr. Kris Mohandie said Wednesday.

Mohandie is a Los-Angeles-based criminal psychologist who has worked with the LA Police Department and the FBI on cases involving O.J. Simpson and filmmaker Stephen Spielberg.

He is the final witness for the Crown in the trial of Dustin Paxton, 31, who is charged with aggravated assault, sexual assault and forcible confinement. It's alleged Paxton beat and tortured a former roommate and business partner over a two-year period.

The 28-year-old alleged victim has testified that he was starved, humiliated and beaten — sometimes severely — on an almost daily basis. Court has heard he was battered, bruised and emaciated when he was dropped off at a Regina hospital in April 2010.

Mohandie, who has written on human captivity and victimization, was asked to give a possible explanation as to why the accuser didn't leave even though he was not physically restrained.

The expert said he reviewed a police interview with the victim, as well as testimony from him and other witnesses, and found indications of isolation, manipulation, threats and physical and mental abuse akin to torture.

"It fuels their perception that there's no way out," Mohandie said. "'I just have to deal with this moment to moment' as opposed to looking at the big picture of 'I can escape and ... I can just walk out of here and go to the police station and call my family,'" said Mohandie.

"They may come to believe that they don't have any other options."

He said often a bond will form between the captor and the victim.

"This is what happens in a variety of violence in relationship situations in which the victim, as a consequence of the various methods of control — especially the violence — comes to be bonded counterintuitively with the offender," he said.

"That bond is forged of fear, terror. It is forged of the belief that their only way of managing that situation is to manage him or her."

Mohandie also suggested male victims often follow traditional gender roles and have a "tendency to downplay the articulation of fear" and aren't conditioned to own up to what has happened to them.

Defence lawyer Jim Lutz suggested that Mohandie had jumped to incorrect conclusions that the alleged victim was a prisoner.

"The individual was free to come and go as he pleased," said Lutz.

He said the accuser had his own room and it wasn't unusual he would choose to spend time there.

"You're ignoring the fact it could be apathy. It could be the person is more comfortable in that setting."

Mohandie said there were clear patterns of control in place and the victim was not free.

"I don't agree. I see it completely differently. He went back and forth to work. He basically did what he was told."

Mohandie will continue to be cross-examined Tuesday via videolink from Los Angeles.

Paxton's lawyers failed in a bid to have cross-examination of Mohandie delayed so that they could closely examine his evidence. They said the testimony went well beyond what was contained in a brief summary of what was expected.

"It's evidence we've never seen before. We're getting sensational evidence for no reason," said Lutz.

"It's unfair, improper that the court allowed this sort of testimony."