Nxim, a sex cult branded as a women’s empowerment group, is now facing trial. Keith Raniere, the co-founder of the group who was often regarded as Vanguard or Grandmaster, used his position of power to manipulate women. He started the group in the 1990s as a self-help organization, but it quickly turned into something much worse. He currently faces charges of racketeering conspiracy, identity theft, extortion, forced labor, money laundering, wire fraud, and sex trafficking.
Five women who were considered part of the “inner circle” are also being charged, despite the master/slave dynamic of the group. To join, women were required to hand over some incriminating or embarrassing information about themselves to ensure they stayed in the group and obeyed their masters. One member, known only as Sylvie, said she was required to hand over nude photos and a signed, stamped letter to her parents stating she had become a prostitute. All of the women were branded with a symbol or Raniere’s initials.
When men joined the group, they were asked to put up money that they could get back only if they recruited other members.
Raniere would gather the women in a room and lecture them on philosophy or other topics while they sat around naked. If he wasn’t there, they would all pose for a group photo with their brands showing and send it to him. Women were assigned to have sex with Raniere and some were promised children with him. Raniere encouraged the women to have sex with each other and took nude photos of all of them. If a woman got upset and wanted to leave, senior members would be tasked with encouraging her to stay. Women often had to check in with Raniere to leave town or visit relatives.
Many notable people were members of the group, including Clare Bronfman, the Seagrams liquor heiress, Emiliano Salinas, son of a former president of Mexico, and Allison Mack, an actress on the TV show, Smallville.
Mack faces up to 20 years in prison for her role in recruiting other members into Nxivm. She first joined the group when Bronfman introduced her to Raniere on a private jet. Mack hadn’t handled the pressures of celebrity well, and the group seemed like a welcoming place. She quickly found herself encouraging people to take Nxivm classes to ensure they all had the same ethical foundation.
“I joined Nxivm first to find purpose. I was lost and I wanted to find a place, a community in which I would feel comfortable,” Mack said.
She has since taken full responsibility for her involvement and apologized to the public.
The Nxivm trial is far from over and there are dozens of former members coming forward to testify against Raniere in the next few weeks. Mack refuses to be interviewed while the trial continues.
Featured Image by Ann Althouse on Flickr.