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NXIVM, an organization that allegedly brainwashed and blackmailed women into being ‘sex slaves’, has crumbled in the past year. In March 2018, its founder, Keith Raniere, was arrested and charged with sex trafficking for his role in the group, which then set off a domino effect: In the ensuing months, federal prosecutors would go on to charge more and more people for their alleged involvement, some of whom have now begun to plead guilty. The picture painted of NXIVM in media reports is disturbing, to say the least: that the purported ‘self-help organization’ was instead a front for a sex cult that branded numerous female members with Raniere’s initials and coerced them into ‘master-slave’ relationships.
The past few months have seen the emergence of some truly abhorrent details pertaining to the case, relating to everything from enslavement to child pornography. The five women who were Raniere’s co-defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges over the past few weeks; as part of their plea deal, they all may be called to testify against him. On Tuesday, May 7, Raniere’s long-awaited trial started.
‘He claimed to be a leader, but he was a conman,’ Assistant US Attorney Tanya Hajjar told the jury. ‘He claimed to be a mentor, but he just exploited it … NXIVM was a crime organization and Keith Raniere was a crime boss.’ The Cut online article 7 May 2019, ‘The most disturbing details from the NXIVM sex-cult case’
NXIVM Female sex ‘slaves’ allegedly branded with secretive group leader’s initials. Cults and Extreme Belief s1e1: NXIVM, CI 2018, CBS News online 27 March 2018
‘We take our shoes off at the door, we call Keith Raniere Vanguard – because Vanguard means leader of a philosophical movement – there’s a ranking system similar to martial arts using saches, and all of it’s been preempted with, there is going to be things that happens in this module that will make you uncomfortable … it means that you’re doing it right.’ ibid. Sarah, victim
During her 12 years in NXIVM, Sarah was responsible for the recruitment of over 2,000 members who each paid between $300 and $10,000 for NXIVM workshops and seminars. ibid. caption
In 2017, NXIVM founder Keith Raniere released a series of one-on-one conversations on YouTube inviting the public into the secret world of NXIVM. ibid.
‘I actually think that the branding doesn’t compare to the other emotional abuses that have been going on for decades.’ ibid. victim
Women who have had sex with Keith Raniere say it was billed as a spiritual experience, a transfer of his godlike energy. ibid. Times Union online
Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States. News of his capture was broadcast nationwide. ibid. caption
On April 13 2018 Keith Randiere was charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. ibid.
Nxivm’s Keith Raniere Convicted in Trial Exposing Sex Cult’s Inner Workings: Mr Raniere set up a harem of sexual ‘slaves’ who were branded with his initials and kept in line by blackmail. The Vow s1e1: The Science of Joy, The New York Times online headline, HBO 2020
Rational Inquiry: An extraordinary resource that can change your life: ‘Knowing what to do is useless without the emotional strength to do what you know’. ibid. Instruction manual and quote from Raniere
I felt like I was soaring, it was almost like magic, I felt like I was getting downloaded a book of knowledge, about people, about society, about the world in general – I really felt like I had this secret potion of understanding. ibid. Sarah Edmondson
The Stripe Path is the term we use for the ranking system – for sashes; it represented you moving up within the company. ibid.
Here were people who were really enjoying themselves and working on their internal world. ibid. Bonnie Piesse
And that company was teaching ethics and human potential and professional development. ibid. Sarah
There’s a lot of things I’m starting to see about the organization that’s not right. ibid. Bonnie
The way the system is, they tend to go after their enemies or anyone who leaves. There’s no good way to leave ever. The Vow s1e2: Viscera, Bonnie
Once you’ve broken the spell and you see through it, you can’t go back from that. ibid.
We were all running on no sleep, and even as you’re working 23 hours a day you’re getting feedback of, Oh why can’t you get more. ibid.
Your life should be a life of discomfort if you want to grow. ibid. organisation #2
And she said, she’s been part of this group, and it’s only women, and it’s secret … ibid. victim
There’s a group of women that have signed a vow. They have given things as collateral. They’re under strict orders about how much they can eat. And they’re trying to recruit other women to do this. ibid. Mark
Somebody raised the concept of branding. The Vow s1e3: At Cause, testimony
Well I would joke, well if this is a cult, as in a group of people who have a similar mindset or beliefs, it’s a cult of happy successful people, so what’s the problem? ibid. Sarah
She came back and gave me a blindfold. I could feel like there were other people around me … I don’t want to do this … I’m naked. Help me … I don’t want this thing [branding] on my body. ibid.
There are so many women that have left that look the same – they’re skinny, they’re young, they’re pretty – and they will not say anything because they are scared. ibid. victim
A whole different level of, What the fuck! I decided to start calling people and getting them out. And part of that was to ensure there were no more branding sessions. The Vow s1e4: Building Character, Sarah
There’s a secret organisation within NIXVM. It’s a supposed sisterhood. They sign a lifetime vow of obedience. And they have to provide blackmail that would compromise them or their families, and they’re branding girls. ibid. victim
I wanted to believe. And it just comes down to that. I wanted to believe he was good. ibid.
I decided to tell Frank about the branding. It was pretty terrifying … A vigilante on a mission … You have fucked with the wrong person. The Vow s1e5: Class 1 data, Sarah
Sarah on dog-n-bone: I’m more concerned about where the destruction is actually happening …’ ibid.
Jim of NXIVM: … You can’t get out of it that way. ibid.
There is no good way to leave this organisation. They usually harass you. ibid. Mark
You really think they’re all brainwashed? ibid. Keith to Mark on dog-n-bone
The World’s Strangest Executive: Keith Raniere’s rich and famous clients pay thousands of dollars, bow and call him ‘Vanguard’. ibid. Forbes front page
Keith: All of the accusations against us are not true.
Dalai Lama: You must prove that now. ibid.
I have Class 1 data. It’s on my body and you can’t deny it. ibid. Sarah
How extraordinarily vulnerable we are as people. And even people who on the surface are bright, are capable, talented, successful in many ways, have this intense vulnerability, and this vulnerability is available for someone to exploit. ibid. The New York Times reporter
Oh my God; I love that it rode the Harvey Weinstein’ coattails. The Vow s1e6: Honesty & Disclosure, victim
Holy shit, the whole world know … Now that I’m out and I’m looking at the people who still in, they just look crazy. ibid. Sarah’s radio interview
Technically, it was the women: it was the women who pinned me down, it was the women who scarred me, it was the women who did the manipulation, but it was under the direction of a man. ibid. Sarah
Can you call Charles and get a direct contact with the Dalai Lama? I want to tell him that my daughter is being held as a sex slave. He should make some kind of public statement. The Vow s1e7: Blame & Responsibility, Catherine, mother
Ultimately, this is a criminal enterprise masquerading as a personal-growth programme. ibid.
There’s so many stories of the destruction of people’s lives, and as they tell us the stories, we need to compile all the information together and all the evidence to prepare this dossier to present them with a case. ibid. Mark
Consumers’ Buyline Inc: So far the company is facing four major investigations and several law suits. ibid. old news report of early Raniere venture
I was part of the reign of terror. I was the enforcer trying to like capture everybody back into the system. And people are afraid to ask questions. ibid.
It looks like they may be assigning a task force, an FBI task force. The Vow s1e8: The Wound, Mark
The person receiving it [abuse] only decides they are a victim if they accept that. ibid. Keith teaching
I can argue I wasn’t an arsehole like some of the guys but I showed up. ibid.
He made people feel really shit about themselves so that they would feel they owed so much more than they were giving. The Vow s1e9: The Fall, victim
NXIVM claimed that its executive success programs were designed to put members on the path toward, ‘experiencing more fulfilment in their lives and achieving self-actualisation … Sadly, many others, especially women, were unable to break free. The Unexplained with William Shatner, History 2021