Parts of this post were used in Aggravated.
Influence on Hanna
As you saw in a previous post, I believe that Ada Dixon’s book is clearly much more a Christian-centered religious text than a self-help book for victims of abuse. My biggest concern, though, is that large parts of it could also have been a training manual for Hanna while she prepared to play the role of victim during the trial.
The book listed a number of typical symptoms displayed by victims of abuse, along with case studies of people exhibiting them. In the second trial, Dixon was asked about them. She said they were “characteristics that they develop as a result of being traumatized by sexual assault,” and listed typical ones, like “anger, depression, sometimes running away, nightmares, bedwetting, eating disorders, fear, anxiety, sometimes severe depression to the point of wanting to commit suicide, changes in grades, changes in friends, changes in behavior.” Personally, I think half of those could be just typical of being a teenager, but after a couple of sessions, Hanna told Dixon, “I’m having nightmares about the abuse.” Was Hanna paying attention to the symptoms in the book, and applying them to herself?
About three months after she began her sessions with Dixon, though, she complained to her doctor of waking up with panic attacks, and was prescribed Zoloft for post-traumatic stress. In Steve’s first trial, Hanna said that “all it did was make me lose sleep, and I was even more stressed out from the lack of sleep.” She said she talked to her doctor again, and the doctor switched her to Lexapro, but she said “…I don’t feel that it did anything for me. I was the same before I took it and the same afterwards. So, I just stopped taking it altogether.” The prosecutor asked her if taking those drugs for that short period of time affected her ability to remember any of the things that happened to her. She said, “One of the medications, I don’t remember which one, but it just seemed like every time I was on it, just more and more of the details and memories would just get blocked. And it’s been extremely hard to recover all of that. Of course, it may not have been the medication. It could have just been a natural defense mechanism. I don’t know.” Chapter Six in Dixon’s book is about defense mechanisms.
Even before Hanna made the accusation, she may have constructed and practiced her narrative by telling elements of these stories to her friends (years before the charges were filed). In doing so, she was reinforcing the “memory” of them, which made it possible to recall them more vividly at a future date. Naturally, she continued to repeat these scenarios after the charges were filed, but by then she had also added a new element, a name for her alleged perpetrator. I think that this repetition, coupled with nearly eighty therapy sessions with Ada Dixon, gave her the perfect practice medium for trial preparation, especially with the aid of a potential study guide, Dixon’s book.
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