NXIVM: When A Business Is a Cover for Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor

Published July 1st, 2021 - 05:45 GMT
Actress Allison Mack has been sentenced to three years in prison and a $20,000 fine. (Shutterstock: Gachez / reziart)

The latest developments in the NXIVM case have provoked numerous questions over the nature of the company and how it has deceived lots of victims over the years.

Even though NXIVM markets itself as a multi-level business that "offers personal and professional development seminars through large-group awareness training, investigations over the last three years have uncovered a cult-nature that targets women in a variety of ways.

The company was founded in New York in 1998 by Keith Raniere, who is currently convicted of sex trafficking and is sentenced to 120 years in jail, following revelations made by a number of women who came forward about his offenses.

Besides Keith Raniere, actress Allison Mack has been convicted of involvement in Raniere's activities, considering her role in the company as recruiter and lead deputy. She has been sentenced to three years in jail in addition to a $20,000 fine.

According to women who have reported NXIVM's suspicious activity, Raniere would target women with a history of sexual abuse, promising them a healing and self-development experience, before actually taking advantage of them.

In April 2019, Raniere and the co-founder Nancy Salzman, besides Lauren Salzman, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, and bookkeeper Kathy Russell have all pleaded guilty to charges related to sex trafficking and women branding. 

In the early 2000s, NXIVM claimed that its main emphasis is to "have people experience more joy in their lives". However, NXIVM's trainings that are subject to non-disclosure agreements have sparked suspicion that cult investigator Rick Alan Ross started an inquiry into their activities and concluded that their "secret manual is an expensive brainwashing".

Over the years, press reports tried to investigate the real activities conducted by NXIVM, suggesting unusual cult-like ones, including a 2003 report titled "Cult of Personality" by Forbes who did not shy away from directly expressing serious questions.

Three years later, the magazine highlighted anecdotes of the Bronfman two sisters who had joined NXIVM and failed to see what they believed the company was going to offer them.

One of the strategies NXIVM followed to attract as many victims as possible was the pyramid networking method used in marketing. Victims who were scored by the company were always asked to recruit family, friends, and coworkers, which is how Allison Mack who starred in Smallville during the 2000s was recruited.

Mack has played a major role in guiding investigations into details related to the nature of NXIVM, including an audiotape she provided the US government with, showing women being branded with Keith Raniere's initials. 

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