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.





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Frank Parlato

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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 the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

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