MISSOULA — An expert in sexual trauma testified Thursday morning in the trial of former University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson that victims - especially those raped by acquaintances - often act in ways that seem strange to others.
"The kinds of behavior you see ... are very likely going to be different than what you expect," said David Lisak, a clinical psychologist and forensic consultant who recently retired as a professor at the University of Massachusetts. "There's an enormous variability in how they react."
Later, under cross-examination by defense attorney Kirsten Pabst, Lisak testified that people often react very differently even after consensual sex.
Lisak's testimony came in the fourth day of Johnson's trial on the charge of sexual intercourse without consent, in connection with an incident while he and a fellow UM student watched a movie at her house on Feb. 4, 2012.
Johnson maintains the sex was consensual.
The woman in the case testified all day Wednesday and resumed testimony under cross-examination Thursday. However, that testimony was interrupted to accommodate Lisak, who's charging $325 an hour for his services as an expert witness and who has a plane ticket out of Missoula Friday morning.
The defense sought unsuccessfully in pretrial motions to bar his testimony.
Lisak testified as an educational witness and specified under questioning both from Assistant Attorney General Joel Thompson and from Pabst that he has no knowledge about the specifics of the case.
However, many of Thompson's questions applied to behavior of the woman who says Johnson raped her.
"Can't we at least say that no rape victim in her right mind would give her [attacker] a ride home afterward?" Thompson asked him. (The woman testified that minutes after Johnson allegedly assaulted her, she took him home, saying on the stand that she just wanted him out of her house.)
"I personally have encountered that," said Lisak, who said he knew of several such cases.
What about, Thompson asked, a victim blaming herself for the attack? He read aloud from a Facebook message the woman sent to a friend about the incident with Johnson - something defense attorney David Paoli quizzed the woman about during cross-examination earlier Thursday.
"And now I keep thinking that maybe I did want it, and that's why I didn't punch him or kick him or bite him. It's all kind of ridiculous because I know I didn't ask for it, " she wrote in the note. "The more and more this goes on, the more I feel guilty about it. The whole situation makes me think I just lied."
Again, such behavior is "extremely" common, especially in acquaintance rape, Lisak said.
"They blame themselves in almost any way imaginable" - the psychology being that, if victims figure out what they did wrong, they can be sure not to do that again, and thus avoid being attacked again, he said.
Likewise, he said that a victim might not want to admit to herself that she'd actually been raped - a response to a line of questioning that harkened back to the text message the woman in the Johnson case sent her roommate moments after the incident, saying she thought she'd just been raped.
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Such wording, Lisak said, can be a way of minimizing the trauma.
Sexual assault is so traumatic that it affects the brain, making it common for victims to remember different things about the event at different times, thus making it seem as though they're sometimes changing their stories, he said.
Or, Pabst suggested on her cross-examination, maybe an accuser is simply, well, lying.
Isn't it true, she asked Lisak, that "some people inaccurately portray their role in an event?"
"Other people might characterize that as minimization."
" ... Because the horror is too much to bear."
"Or because it wasn't horrible."
Pabst brought a rare moment of levity into the courtroom when she leaned on the lectern and said to Lisak, "I don't know you very well, but I want to talk to you about sex."
Neither bad sex nor awkward sex nor disappointing sex constitutes rape, Lisak agreed in response to her questions.
"If nothing bad has happened," Pabst suggested, "what's characterized as accepting blame could also be seen as acknowledging responsibility," she said.
"Yes," said Lisak.
Thursday's courtroom session will break early, at 4 p.m. The trial resumes Friday at 9 a.m.