The saga of the DOS sex cult founded by Keith Raniere, called NXIVM within the larger organization, continues as former members of the secret sorority have come to the defense of their master, as reported by Frank Parlato, who broke the story of the sex cult. Eight women who were part of the DOS secret club, which required blackmail material from their pledges and branded women near their genitals, have come out with a written statement of support for the ideology that sent Raniere and billionaire heiress Clare Bronfman to prison for trafficking women and girls. Allison Mack is awaiting sentencing and facing forty years. The women posted their defense online.
We were driven by curiosity, vision, and a desire to challenge social conventions in exchange for increased self-awareness and self-esteem. DOS, which stands for Dominus Obsequium Sororum (Master, Allegiance, Sisterhood), was an experiment in its infancy. It was new, it was edgy, and it was good.
The eight women in the “first line” of DOS (seven of whom were co-founders) were mentored, yes, by a man, but not by just any man, a man with whom these women had built a combined 100 years of trust, friendship and collaboration.
It is incorrect to believe that we, a group of educated, intelligent, and financially independent women were driven by fear and faulty assumptions, and it is even further absurd to believe we were manipulated by an abusive, power-hungry patriarch. Yet, this is the role society has cast for us: that of hapless, unwitting victims who need to be saved from our own choices. Alternatively, we are seen by the general public as “brainwashed” followers who can’t think for ourselves and who are complicit in heinous crimes. Neither of these views is accurate, but understanding the truth is neither simple nor easy.
The binary narrative of “victim/perpetrator” is uninformed and reductive, and offensive to all the adult women who chose to participate in DOS, even the ones who have retroactively withdrawn their consent. It is also disrespectful to victims of actual crimes like human trafficking, none of whom receive the type of fame and opportunities that the so-called “victims” of DOS have enjoyed. While everyone is entitled to feel how they want about an experience, past or present, we believe that objective reality is still significant, if not essential, when discussing events with such damaging repercussions.
Of course, these eight women appear to have been some of the founding members of this cult, which victimized many women, according to Sarah Edmondson, who says she was told she was getting a tattoo that turned out to be a brand instead. She also claims she had no idea the brand was Mack’s and Raniere’s initials and that no one knew that Raniere was the head of the group. Edmondson told her story to the New York Times and wrote a book on the subject.
Sarah Edmondson, one of the participants, said she had been told she would get a small tattoo as part of the initiation. But she was not prepared for what came next.
Each woman was told to undress and lie on a massage table, while three others restrained her legs and shoulders. According to one of them, their “master,” a top official named Lauren Salzman, instructed them to say: “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor.”
A female doctor proceeded to use a cauterizing device to sear a two-inch-square symbol below each woman’s hip, a procedure that took 20 to 30 minutes. For hours, muffled screams and the smell of burning tissue filled the room.
“I wept the whole time,” Ms. Edmondson recalled. “I disassociated out of my body.”
This is not the same story the defenders of DOS are telling.
The invitation always included a detailed explanation of these four requirements:
Making a vow of obedience: to eliminate the possibility of being able to talk oneself out of their expressed goals and ideals.
Wearing a symbolic piece of jewelry: to signify the commitment, similar to wearing a wedding ring.
Getting a brand: to symbolize permanence, allegiance to one’s sisters and personal ideology, and as a bonding ritual.
Entering into a mentorship relationship using “Master/slave” terminology: as a metaphor for overcoming the enslavement we feel to materialism and a false identity, and the path of challenging those attachments in order to discover one’s true self.
Perhaps what these women are missing is the experience of the other women who did not feel this secret society helped them but harmed them through blackmail and torture. One of the things the “masters” were doing was counting the calories of the slaves, leading them into extreme thinness. At least one developed an eating disorder that has been disclosed.
The issue of consent is at the center of this scandal. Can a person consent to blackmail? It doesn’t seem so, based on the court’s rulings. Perhaps the eight women referenced above have no problem with a cult leader holding damaging evidence against them to be released if they “break their sacred vows” of secrecy, but other women felt terrorized and abused by it. The courts agreed. Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sex trafficking and other crimes connected to his company, NXIVM.
During court testimony, fifteen women came forward to tell what happened to them under Raniere’s control.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn determined the punishment after hearing hours of wrenching testimony from 15 victims, many of whom described how Mr. Raniere had left them traumatized and brainwashed from his pseudoscientific teachings.
Let’s not forget that Raniere also sexually abused a minor.
The first to speak was a woman identified only as Camila, who in a trembling voice recalled that Mr. Raniere started sexually abusing her when she was 15 and he was 45. She had previously declined to cooperate with prosecutors on the advice of a lawyer who was recommended to her by Mr. Raniere’s counsel.
During their 12-year relationship, Camila said, Mr. Raniere expected her to be available for sex at all hours. He ordered her to weigh less than 100 pounds and directed her to get an abortion. She said she attempted suicide once.
Perhaps the eight women who had no negative experiences in DOS should talk to Camila before claiming that Raniere’s methods and teachings didn’t harm anyone. What was “edgy and good” to some women was brutal torture to others.
“I want to move on, but he has damaged me in so many ways,” Camila said.
When he wanted to replace Camila, prosecutors have said, he directed his inner circle to find another “young virgin successor” for him.