Did NXIVM really rely on blackmail and branding to keep members?
NXIVM manipulated and wreaked havoc on the minds of many people over the decades it was in existence. It positioned itself as a multi-level marketing company interested in helping people reach their fullest financial and career potential. The reality of their motivations was much more sinister.
Keith Raniere, founder & head of the NXIVM cult, had selfish plans for his supposed multi-level marketing company. The organization of NXIVM was used as a cover for a perverted scheme. There was a secret society buried within NXIVM called DOS (Dominus Obsequious Sororium) or The Vow. That’s where the HBO docuseries on the NXIVM cult got its name.
The media got into the habit of branding NXIVM a sex cult – and with good reason. Raniere and others would wrap some of their members in carefully spun webs of manipulation to make them willing to give up their bodies in ways they never would have before. You see, the media wasn’t the only one involved in branding. NXIVM was too – literally.
Trickling into the DOS section of NXIVM
It’s not like people entered NXIVM thinking they were ready to join a cult. Former NXIVM member Sarah Edmondson pointed out, “When people look at things like this, their natural instinct is [to say], ‘That would never happen to me, only stupid people fall for stuff like this.’ I want to dispel the myth of how people get involved. Nobody joins a cult on purpose, just like nobody gets into an abusive relationship on purpose.”
Just as NXIVM members didn’t fancy themselves cultists, NXIVM leaders staunchly refused the label as well. For all the brain-washing and coercion happening, it definitely fit the mold of one. When someone first became involved in NXIVM they’d be encouraged to go to self-improvement seminars and dip their toes into the NXIVM way of life.
Many new NXIVM members were invited to these seminars by current members who thought they were doing the invitees a big favor. Having obtained feelings of self-fulfillment from NXIVM programs themselves, it was only natural to want to spread the good news.
It’s probably fair to say women bore the brunt of NXIVM scheme manipulations since they were Raniere’s ultimate targets. While men got abused in other ways (including financially & mentally), women were always on NXIVM leaders’ radars as potential recruits for DOS. Once women were “invited” into DOS they were forced into performing sexual acts.
What began as a group supposed to help women empower themselves became a place where women had their power stripped from them. Through ESP programs women were supposed to learn about mindfulness and joy. Instead they were manipulated into master-slave relationships. DOS became a “high-control group” where people like Raniere could blackmail, extort, and sexually abuse.
The FBI shrugs its shoulders at branding
One startling fact about NXIVM’s history is that whistleblowers alerted authorities of the shady going-ons several times before NXIVM was fully investigated. One of the most regretful cases of negligence by authorities is when Sarah Edmondson contacted the FBI.
Edmonson explained to a New York FBI agent how she had been branded and blackmailed in a Saratoga County townhouse by the NXIVM group on May 30,2017. She even told the FBI exactly where & when the next branding session would take place and divulged the names of people involved.
Having delivered her report, Edmonson was sure there would be a raid on the building and NXIVM would finally be exposed for what it was. Edmondson’s hopes were dashed when she discovered no raid was performed. Even worse – there wasn’t even any follow-up that she ever became aware of.
She wasn’t the first woman to be ignored. Women who had stepped forward before Edmondson had also been waved away. Some had even ended up facing criminal charges themselves.
Edmondson had to take matters into her own hands after law enforcement failed her. She tried her best to dissuade other women from going through with the branding ritual. Sometimes Edmondson succeeded. Sometimes she failed. It must have been so disturbing for her to have been dismissed the way she was. It’s always a tragedy when the forces that are supposed to intervene for good choose not to.
NXIVM manipulation tactics: branding & more
NXIVM training was always kept a trade secret and subject to all sorts of non-disclosure agreements. It’s no accident NXIVM didn’t want the information getting out. A cult investigator named Rick Alan Ross handed over a NXIVM manual for a psychiatrist to evaluate. The psychiatrist ended up labeling it “expensive brainwashing”. Ross posted this on his website and ended up in a lawsuit with NXIVM for copyright infringement.
Some of NXIVM training resembled the New Age philosophy of radical responsibility. It made it easy to gaslight members. Should members not be persuaded to acquiesce to abusive practices or threaten to expose NXIVM going-ons, NXIVM used other tactics to keep members under its iron fist. It wasn’t just branding that kept NXIVM members quiet.
It was routine for members in the “slave” group of DOS to hand over collateral. Female “slaves” would disclose embarrassing information about themselves or hand over compromising photos to their “masters”. This proved a very effective tactic for concealing NXIVM’s wickedness. It certainly took a long time for them to be disbanded.
Women in the DOS took lifetime vows of obedience to their masters. We’re just glad several brave souls broke away from the mind control to expose NXIVM for what it was. Many are still healing from the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical toll NXIVM took on them. For most, it will take years to recover. For others, the brainwashing is so deep they will never disavow their NXIVM masters.