The NXIVM trial has now entered its third week, and, as expected, the specifics of the cult run by leader Keith Raniere have become progressively harrowing. On Monday, Lauren Salzman—daughter of NXIVM President Nancy Salzman and high-ranking member of the cult wing DOS (her official title was “first-line master,” or “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions”)—stood trial and testified against Raniere. In the process, her first-hand account of the abuses she faced, and those faced by other “slaves” in the cult, became more apparent.
Lauren Salzman, as you may recall, pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy last month, when she also admitted to enslaving a woman for two years.
According to the New York Times, Salzman addressed the courtroom on Monday by describing the NXIVM branding practice developed by Smallville actor Allison Mack that served as an initiation process for women to join DOS. Before receiving her brand (which was in the shape of Raniere’s initials,) Salzman said she knelt and repeated, “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor, an honor I want to wear for the rest of my life.” She described the brand as “the most painful thing I have ever experienced,” and explained that “the idea of the brand was to memorialize on our body the promise we made.”
She also said DOS was also referred to as “The Vow,” and the women referred to Raniere as “master” or “grandmaster.” She said 22 “slaves” reported to her, and that if any of the women did not abide by his will, they would face punishments.
[“Slaves”] communicated using encrypted phone applications, executed tasks and drills designed by him and accepted harsh discipline if they were deemed to have failed at their duties.
The punishments could include being forced to hold painful poses, stand barefoot in the snow, take cold showers and whip each other on the “bare butt” with the strap, Ms. Salzman said. She recalled that Mr. Raniere once called during the beatings to tell the women to make sure that they snapped their wrists in a particular way to inflict maximum pain.
“These things started to become scary,” she said. “I was concerned about failing.”
In her testimony, Salzman revealed that she was told to create a manifesto for slaves to learn, one that included passages like, “contemplate why your master is better than all other people,” “the best slave derives the highest pleasure from being her master’s ultimate tool,” and “you surrender your life, mind, body for unconditional use.” She also said that Raniere, “envisioned that there would be thousands or millions of people in [DOS], We might be able to have a candidate, a D.O.S. candidate, for political office.”
According to BuzzFeed, Salzman admitted that there were plans to build a “dungeon,” “conceived under the guise of being an opportunity for growth for the most committed members of DOS,” which she “believed vulnerability was the point of a member being locked in a cage, which could have gone on for days at a time, forcing the ‘slave’ to completely surrender.” Salzman said in court, “I didn’t believe you couldn’t be most committed to growth unless you did BDSM things.”
Now that Lauren Salzman has testified against Raniere, it could be that her mother Nancy will, too. In any case, Nancy Salzman has a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 10, and the NXIVM trial is still in progress.