Cult Leader Arrested and Charged with Sex-Trafficking, Slavery, and Branding Women

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On Monday, March 26, Keith Raniere was arrested for forcing NXIVM members to perform sexual acts. He has been charged with sex-trafficking, slavery, as well as branding the women in the group with his own initials with a cauterizing pen.

NXIVM is a secretive cult that practices multi-level marketing. Mr. Raniere, age 57, was arrested by federal authorities. He is known as “The Vanguard” and co-founded NXIVM. Mr. Rainere had attempted to flee to Mexico to evade arrest last year, but was arrested there and is currently detained in Fort Worth, Texas. An investigation by the New York Times uncovered the sex-trafficking operations within the group.

Court documents show Mr. Raniere’s sexual relations with as many as 20 women, who were not allowed to have intercourse with others. The documents also show that while the men in the group could have multiple sexual relations, the women were forced into monogamy.

Over two decades ago Mr. Raniere has started Executive Success Programs (ESP), workshops meant to increase human potential. Later on, by 2003, he also started NXIVM, a group that promised members would reach a  “new ethical understanding” that allowed “humanity to rise to its nobility possibility.”

In the same year one of the parents whose daughters had joined NXIVM revealed in an interview that he hadn’t spoken to his daughters for several months, and that he was concerned about them. The parent, Edgar Bronfman, had originally supported the program had said in the interview that he believed the group to be a cult. Mr. Bronfman was sued by Mr. Raniere for defamation in 2009.

NXIVM has certainly been suspicious from the beginning. Participants for the workshops are charged as high as $5000 for five days of training. Many of the people who joined ended up indebted for the course fees, and were forced to work for NXIVM until they paid their debts.

For his birthday every year in August, members shell out $2000 to attend a gathering in Silver Bay, New York.

More damning in the court records are reports concerning DOS, “Dominus Obsequious Sororium (master over slave women)” a sex cult created by Mr. Raniere, which operated in New York, Mexico and Canada. Within the club, masters lorded it over slaves, who would then recruit outsiders to become new slaves, promoting the former slaves into masters.

“As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves. He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme. These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting, to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today,” said FBI’s New York Field Office Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr.

Slave recruits allegedly had to submit collateral, including naked or explicit photos of themselves, or stories that could implicate them.  Since women had “overemotional natures” it was the aim of DOS to “eradicate” this “weakness.”

Women have told their stories of abuse at Mr. Raniere’s hands—how they were locked up in a cage, paddled, groomed by others for sexual relations with him, kept on low calorie diets as to remain very slender for him.

Slaves within the groups were expected to perform menial duties wish as cleaning homes and carrying luggage for their masters, as well as transcribing and reviewing Mr. Raniere’s luggage.

Mr. Raniere has said on his website that the women in the sorority are “thriving, healthy, happy, better off, and haven’t been coerced.”

He has denied wrongdoing and claims no connection from NXIVM to DOS, and stated that he hired experts to prove this. However, e-mails have shown that the group “supports the conclusion that Raniere created DOS.”

A US Attorney commanded his detention as he awaits trial, and, if convicted, he may receive a 15 year sentence.

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