NXIVM: The former members who helped take down the cult
Although it claimed to be a self-help group, NXIVM has now been deemed a “sex cult” following the numerous allegations by former members who claimed Keith Raniere, the founder & leader of NXIVM, used NXIVM to recruit & groom women to become his sex slaves. Raniere has since been found guilty of multiple charges and was sentenced to life in prison with a 120-year sentence.
Raniere had many accomplices, most of whom haven’t been sentenced yet. NXIVM has been the subject of multiple documentaries, podcasts, and more, all of which explore the crimes of Raniere and other NXIVM officials. Two of the most popular have been HBO’s The Vow & Showtime’s Seduced. In both docuseries, former members described their experience in the group and how their time in NXIVM has affected their lives.
Here are all of the most outspoken members who made it their mission to take down Raniere & his sex cult, NXIVM.
Barbara Bouchey was one of the first members of NXIVM. She was first a client of NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman in the 80s & 90s and was later Raniere’s girlfriend starting in 2000, according to the Times Union. Over time, Bouchey realized Raniere was sleeping with other women while they were still together.
Raniere had convinced Bouchey to leave her career and eventually give her life savings to NXIVM. Realizing Raniere’s infidelity & his abuse toward other women, Bouchey finally decided to leave. Bouchey was one of the “NXIVM Nine”, nine women who all left in 2009 when they discovered Raniere had more sinister intentions with NXIVM.
Bouchey told the Times Union she realized Raniere’s “secret weapon” was secrets he could use as blackmail to groom members of NXIVM. Though she immediately tried to tell the authorities of Raniere’s crimes, they “brushed off” her allegations, according to the Times Union. Over the years since leaving NXIVM, she was constantly harassed by NXIVM officials, keeping her quiet to the public. She finally told her story in The Vow.
Susan Dones was one of the first members of NXIVM, joining the group in 2000, according to Oxygen. Dones was a teacher in NXIVM and set up the Vancouver chapter of NXIVM. However, she grew suspicious of Raniere’s true intentions, telling Oxygen she saw “red flags” and found Raniere’s teachings “really archaic”, especially when it came to Raniere’s preference for polygamy so men could “spread their seed”.
Starting in 2008, Dones grew suspicious of Raniere, thinking he was sleeping with numerous NXIVM members and knew officials were involved in money laundering & tax evasion, according to Oxygen. Dones told Oxygen she was told to stop paying taxes by high-ranking NXIVM members, which could be used as collateral. Dones eventually left NXIVM with “The NXIVM Nine” in 2009, according to Oxygen.
Shortly after she left, NXIVM sued Dones since she and the other nine women asked for the money they were owed for their time as ESP teachers. Dones eventually won the case and she told Oxygen she “never gave up” trying to tell law enforcement about NXIVM’s crimes. While she’s not one of the main subjects in The Vow, Dones appeared in a few episodes, explaining her time in NXIVM and why she and the other nine members left.
Sarah Edmondson was one of the first NXIVM members to openly speak out about NXIVM and revealed the DOS scheme through a New York Times expose. Edmondson joined NXIVM in the 2000s and helped form NXIVM’s Vancouver chapter. Edmondson met fellow NXIVM member Anthony Ames during NXIVM’s notorious V-Week in 2006, and the couple eventually married in 2013.
After being heavily involved in NXIVM and recruiting many members, Edmondson’s best friend, Lauren Salzman, daughter of Nancy Salzman, recruited Edmondson into DOS. Edmondson had to follow a strict master/slave regime, and she was eventually branded with a cauterizing pen. Edmondson later found out the brand was Raniere’s initials. Once Ames discovered the brand, the family finally left in 2017.
After the Times article, Edmondson appeared in the CBC podcast, Uncover, where she described her time in NXIVM & DOS. She was also one of the biggest stars of The Vow, which depicted her time contributing to the Times’s exposé and the research she made trying to persuade authorities to look into NXIVM’s crimes. She’s still married to Ames and lives with him and their two children in Canada.
Edmondson’s husband, Anthony Ames, was furious when he found out about Edmondson’s brand. Having no prior knowledge of DOS and what happened in the women-only group, learning about his wife’s brand prompted him to immediately leave the group. Ames confronted Lauren Salzman where he asked her about DOS. He recorded the conversation, which was later featured in The Vow.
Ames initially joined NXIVM, as he was attracted to their supposed self-help classes & their claims of their humanitarian goals. Diving deeper into the organization, Ames was a part of NXIVM’s male-only group, the Society of Protectors, or SOP. He eventually became the highest-ranking member of SOP, despite its apparent misogynistic teachings.
Ames still lives with Edmondson and their two children in Canada. Speaking out in support of his wife over the years, Ames has also been an outspoken critic of NXIVM. Like Edmondson, Ames was featured in The Vow where he described how he found out about Edmondson’s participation in DOS.
While it took a while for India Oxenberg to escape DOS, Oxenberg was vital for the prosecution to take down Raniere. While her mother attended a few classes in NXIVM, India Oxenberg deepened her relationship with NXIVM and eventually entered DOS. Oxenberg finally escaped in 2018, when she found discovered Raniere’s true intentions.
Like Edmondson, Oxenberg was branded, but Oxenberg revealed other things slaves had to do in DOS. Oxenberg’s master was a longtime NXIVM member & DOS leader, Allison Mack. Mack groomed Oxenberg to be at her beck and call 24/7. Oxenberg had to perform sexual acts on Raniere, and she was forced to eat a heavily restrictive diet. Once she left, Oxenberg told the authorities the truth behind NXIVM & DOS.
Declining to be featured in The Vow, India Oxenberg was involved with Showtime’s NXIVM docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, which was India’s first time speaking out about her time in NXIVM & DOS. India now lives in Los Angeles with her fiance, Patrick D’Ignazio. Oxenberg also published her own memoir, Still Learning: A Memoir, earlier this year.
Before Bonnie Piesse was a NXIVM member, she was an actress & a singer-songwriter, even appearing in Star Wars Episode One. Piesse met fellow NXIVM member Mark Vicente in 2007. Vicente introduced Piesse to NXIVM, according to Oprah Magazine, after she expressed doubts about her career. Piesse & Vicente later married and the two deepened their participation in NXIVM.
Piesse, however, had many doubts about NXIVM, which threatened her relationship with Vicente. Over time, Piesse grew distrustful of Raniere and his teachings, especially when it came to the unfulfilling classes & overwhelming financial burden. She realized she was devoting too much of her life to NXIVM, but the final straw was learning about the abuse in DOS. Piesse left NXIVM in 2017 before Vicente realized the truth.
Like others on this list, Piesse was heavily seen in The Vow. She still works as a singer-songwriter and even sang the song featured in the opening credits of The Vow. She also reportedly works as a Tarot card reader, according to Oprah Magazine, and currently lives in Portugal with Vicente.
Mark Vicente was a high-ranking NXIVM member, who made promotional videos for the group during his time in NXIVM. Vincente met Bonnie Piesse in NIXVM and the two later married each other. Vincente joined NXIVM in 2004 after being invited by Nancy Salzman & Barbara Bouchey, according to Oprah Magazine. He left NXIVM in 2017, shortly after Piesse left, realizing the sinister truth of NXIVM & DOS.
Vicente was one of the prosecution’s witnesses at Raniere’s trial, where he described his understanding of DOS and a confrontation he had with Allison Mack about the allegations of its master/slave organization. He was heavily involved in many of the actions taken to try to end NXIVM. An outspoken critic of NXIVM, he’s been one of the faces of the revolt against the so-called sex cult.
Along with most of the people on this list, Vicente had a key role in The Vow, which had its first season filmed before Raniere’s arrest in 2018. Vicente now lives in Portugal with Piesse, according to Oprah Magazine. According to the magazine, Vicente will be releasing his own documentary, Coercion: The Invisible Weapon, in 2021.
Like Bouchey, Toni Natalie was an early member of NXIVM and met Raniere way back in 1991 when Raniere was still pitching Consumer’s Buyline, which turned out to be a pyramid scheme. Natalie became entranced by Raniere and she left her husband for Raniere in the 90s. Natalie & Raniere dated for eight years before ending their relationship in 1999.
NXIVM was founded in 1998, so Natalie could have been involved with NXIVM, but the extent of Natalie’s participation in the cult hasn’t been reported. Nevertheless, Natalie was constantly threatened by Raniere & Nancy Salzman with litigation, and Natalie eventually had to file for bankruptcy. According to Oxygen, Natalie was one of the first to speak out about Raniere in 2010. Raniere responded with numerous lawsuits.
Natalie has been consistently critical of Raniere over the years, claiming Raniere incessantly harassed her and eventually accused Raniere of rape when she sued him in federal court in 2011. She’s since written a memoir and has a website where she has tried to expose Raniere’s crimes. She was a part of The Vow, where she recollected Raniere’s character and the years leading up to the inception of NXIVM.