Nxivm trial: Women paddled and expected to be as obedient as ‘hungry dogs’, secret sex cult member tells court

Purported self-help guru brainwashed followers to send nude photos and supply food on demand, court told 

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 21 May 2019 15:12
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Former cult-follower Lauren Salzman leaves Brooklyn federal court in New York
Former cult-follower Lauren Salzman leaves Brooklyn federal court in New York

Alleged sex cult leader Keith Raniere expected his female followers to be as obedient as “hungry dogs” whether he wanted nude photos on demand, or food paid for out of their pockets, his trial has heard.

Former devotee Lauren Salzman told a New York City jury that members of secret master-slave society Nxivm were brainwashed to respond at all hours when asked for “acts of care”.

Among the written instructions for those in the “sorority” were: “You should be a hungry dog for your master.”

Mr Raniere, 58, a purported self-help guru, sometimes ordered the women to paddle each other if they disobeyed his rules, Ms Salzman said.

Her testimony came in the second week of a trial in which Mr Raniere’s lawyers have claimed his contact with Nxivm’s members was consensual and intended to help with their personal growth.

Ms Salzman, 42, took the stand as part of a plea deal in which she admitted keeping a lower-ranking member of the upstate New York group captive in a bedroom for two years as a form of discipline.

Allison Mack, an actor best known for her role as the friend of a young Superman in the Smallville series, has also pleaded guilty to collecting of embarrassing material – referred to as “collateral” – used to blackmail “slaves” into silence about the society’s practices. It remains unclear if Ms Mack will testify in the trial.

Ms Salzman said the “collateral” included nude photos with forced smiles that the women took of themselves when they met three times a week in their “sorority house”.

Mr Raniere would sometimes demand they reshoot the photos if they did not turn out the way he wanted, she said.

“The elephant in the room was that he was having sex with lots of these people,” Ms Salzman said.

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The women were branded as part of the initiation into the group, but only senior members were allowed to know the brand represented Mr Raniere’s initials, she added.

She and others expressed concerns about keeping members in the dark about the meaning of the brands, Ms Salzman said, but Mr Raniere told them “it shouldn’t matter” and that “we were making problems”.

Ms Salzman has previously told the court Mr Raniere would would hold meetings during which he would sit fully clothed in a chair and give lectures on philosophy while female “slaves” sat naked on the floor around him.

The women were instructed to make sure their branding was visible and that they “looked happy”, the court heard.

Additional reporting by agencies

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