Reader: Express compassion for anyone who joined NXIVM

“A Reader Who Cares” writes:

Dear Frank,

I believe that we should express compassion for anyone who joined NXIVM, only to later find out that it was not what they were originally led to believe.  Many people who became involved in NXIVM’s hierarchy have expressed that they felt misled, their trust violated by its leaders.  A betrayal like this can be deeply hurtful.

While some people might say that the leader’s bio is “designed to weed out intelligent people and attract the naive and stupid,” or that NXIVM attracts idiots or kool-aid drinkers, this is just not so. It attracts good, kind, caring, intelligent people who want to become better people, or make the world a more ethical place. This is the message that attracted them to NXIVM in the first place. Is Virgin CEO Richard Branson or CEO Black Entertainment Sheila Johnson or a former US Surgeon General naive and stupid? Of course not.

Those who left NXIVM did not do so because they suddenly became intelligent. They were always intelligent. They left NXIVM for different reasons. Some who left may feel enriched, others may feel victimized.

Either way, blaming victims for their own victimization is never a proper thing to do, especially if they were deceived and manipulated.

Cults, for example, use various techniques to attract smart, idealistic people and the leaders commonly use undue influence to negatively affect their lives.

Myths about Cults

There are many myths associated with cults and why a person would join. Myths include that an individual must be:

  • experiencing a personal problem
  • lost in life
  • a soul searching for religion
  • psychologically unstable
  • suffering from low self-esteem
  • an uneducated teenager
  • trying to fill a void in his life
  • and more.
The reality is vastly different.

By far the majority of people who are recruited into cults are in fact normal and healthy. They usually come from economically advantaged family backgrounds, have average to above average intelligence and are well educated, idealistic people, with no prior history of mental illness.  Some have a strong faith and some do not.

People of all ages are influenced and many are professionals. It seems that anyone from any background can be recruited. Furthermore, no one wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to join a cult,” then goes out looking for one. Instead, people seek programs filled with goodness and meaning, and along the way, they become unwitting victims of deception and subtle techniques of psychological manipulation.


When we blame cult survivors for their own abuse, losses or heartache, we are committing the Fundamental Attribution Error.  In a nutshell, this is when people blame a victim’s abuse on the flaws of the victim instead of the external factors and circumstances that contributed to it.  It’s like saying that the victims of Bernie Madoff deserved their losses for being so ignorant, instead of acknowledging that Madoff constructed a complex environment of deception. In fact, Madoff’s deception was so sophisticated that until the sons confessed, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could not uncover the massive fraud – even after previously conducting multiple investigations into Madoff’s business practices.SOURCE

In the same way that people do not blame the victims of Madoff for their losses, they should not blame or shame the victims of guru-led groups for their experiences. The more the public learns about cult mind control and undue influence, the more kindness and compassion they will have for people who emerge from such an experience, as well as for the people still in it.

Don’t forget that there are many testimonials regarding the good and beautiful things about NXIVM. This is why the recruits stay in as long as they do. It is not because they are idiots. Let’s be kind and keep things in perspective.





About the author

Frank Parlato

Frank Report’s founder and lead writer Frank Parlato is one of the internet’s most acclaimed investigative journalists. His writing and investigations have helped expose major criminal organizations and scandals.

Frank’s work has been cited in major publications all over the world, including The New York Times, New York Post, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CNN, Rolling Stone, and more.

He is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Artvoice, The Niagara Falls Reporter, Front Page and the South Buffalo News.

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  • Yes, there shouldn’t be any victim blaming. At the same time, almost all independent news that has been associated with NXIVM has been negative – despite all the positive company sponsored testimonials by individuals who have taken their “courses” – and has been rebuked as a cult with backed up sources for at least a decade by people like cult researcher Rick Ross. So, there really is no excuse for people to not do the research and stay away, especially in this time of social media.

About Frank Parlato

About Frank Parlato

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in major publications all over the world, including The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CNN, Fox News, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, and more.

Frank Parlato was the lead investigator and coordinating producer of Investigation Discovery's 2 hour blockbuster special 'The Lost Women of NXIVM.'

Frank Report is dedicated to Frank's investigative journalism and the pursuit of truth.

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