Back in 2017, some horrifying details about Nxivm, the Keith Raniere-led movement, were exposed by the New York Times.
Six months after the article, Smallville actress Allison Mack was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and forced labour conspiracy. She pleaded guilty and was later released on bail.
The cult – which claimed initially to be part of the same wellness, self-improvement, celebrity and wealth scene that supports things like Gwyneth Paltrow’s side hustle ‘Goop‘ – has now been outed as a criminal enterprise engaged in sex trafficking, possession of child abuse images, and other crimes.
In more recent news, new testimony adds to the already horrific narrative surrounding cult leader Raniere, reports CNN.
A woman, going by “Sylvie”, says that on most mornings she would send a text message and nude photo of herself to Raniere (below).
Raniere was the founder and revered leader Nxivm, an organization that sold self-improvement classes to thousands of people all over the world. Sylvie entered Raniere’s world by taking several of those classes to try to improve a professional horse-riding career.
Prosecutors say that within Nxivm was a secret society called DOS that Raniere headed. It consisted only of women who were either “slaves” or “masters.” Some of the women were instructed to seduce and have sex with Raniere, prosecutors say.
Sylvie testified that a woman called Monica recruited her. She was required to send nude photos to Raniere, abstain from sex with her husband for two years, and provide “collateral” or incriminating material which was used to control her under threat of distribution (in this case a fake letter telling her parents that she was a sex worker).
The master-slave relationship that Raniere insisted on also meant engaging in sex acts against her will.
Soon, Monica asked Sylvie to meet Raniere at his home.
“She said that I needed to ask him to take my picture and that to go along with whatever else was going to happen in that meeting, but she didn’t tell me what,” Sylvie testified.
Once inside his home, Raniere allegedly told her to get undressed and lie on a bed. He then began to perform oral sex on her.
“I just remember I felt like it was going on for a really long time and … I started to think, like, ‘When is this going to end?'” Sylvie said, adding that she started making sounds to let him think she’d finished. “I was doing anything to make it stop, basically.”
“Did you want to be participating in that,” Assistant US Attorney Moira Penza asked.
“No,” Sylvie replied.
“Why did you do it?” Penza asked.
“I understood that that was a command from my master and that that was part of my role as a slave in order to do what I was supposed to do without getting in trouble,” Sylvie testified.
When he was done, Raniere informed her that he was her master now. Sylvie would remain a member of DOS for 13 years.
A video of Nxivm teachings shown in court featured one of Raniere’s co-defendants, Nancy Salzman, who discusses the sexual abuse of children.
“Often when you counsel people who are children of what you might call abuse, some little children are perfectly happy with it until they find out what happens later in life,” Salzman says, on camera. “They didn’t know anything about it was bad, later they grow up and they found out that it was actually something that was bad, in that case is it more society that’s abusing them?”
Lessons like these apparently made it difficult for Sylvie to determine the difference between right and wrong.
You can read more witness testimony here.
The trial is ongoing.
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