How The NXIVM Cult Found And Lured Their Victims

NXIVM was a cult disguised as a multi-level marketing enterprise and self-help group. Founded in the 1990s by Keith Raniere, the cult gained many followers and thrived throughout the years until it was exposed by former members as a sex cult that involved physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

In 2017, former NXIVM member, Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson, revealed details about the cult and her time there. Sarah was a member of NXIVM for 12 years before she left, and she even recruited some women to join the cult, per CBC. Sarah's revelations prompted an investigation into NXIVM and its operations, and the truth was revealed. Raniere, known to NXIVM members as Vanguard, was known as the "master" of the cult and engaged in sexual activities with the members known as "slaves," even going as far as branding them like cattle with a symbol made up of his initials. Former members of NXIVM came out one by one to share their experiences when the truth about the cult finally came to light.

Collaterals and brainwashing

Keith Raniere was a known self-help guru and together with former psychiatric nurse Nancy Salzman, they established NXIVM in 1998. According to Insider, the organization recruited members with workshops and programs designed for people to realize their full potential. The courses cost thousands of dollars and helped attendees with their fears, anxieties, and phobias. From the get-go, members were ingrained with a mission statement and were even required to sign non-disclosure agreements (via Esquire).

There was a group within NXIVM called Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), a Latin phrase that translates to "lord over the obedient female companions." As Sarah Edmondson revealed, those who joined DOS were required to provide collateral in the form of explicit photos. It was in the DOS where some women were branded and taken advantage of by Raniere. One former member, only known as Sylvie, said that she was made to wear a dog collar and was goaded into sending photos of her genitals to Raniere, as reported by The Guardian.

Targeting vulnerable women

Offering self-help to women was the perfect guise for NXIVM as they were able to lure vulnerable women. According to psychologist and cult expert Michael Langone, it's not surprising that the cult was disguised as a self-help and wellness organization, as it allows the leaders to have control over its members and their beliefs. "You have to have the same qualities as a cult that springs from any religious or political movement: the centralization of control, a belief system vulnerable to critical scrutiny and an attempt to change people in fundamental ways," Langone explained to The Guardian.

Langone's explanation was confirmed by many NXIVM members who said that they sought guidance and the meaning of life when they took NXIVM courses. They believed that the organization provided the answers they were looking for, and Raniere took advantage by slowly controlling how they acted and behaved. Robin Boyle-Laisure, a law professor, said that cults are deceiving and "the engagement is not clear at the outset, people get sucked in, turn over collateral and then it's too late to exit.

Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison for his crimes and was ordered to pay $3.46 million in restitution to the victims of NXIVM.