Human Trafficking Legislation – A Brief Overview

By Christine Marie 
With NXIVM appearing in worldwide news related to human trafficking, I would like to share some background of important trafficking legislation to help people analyze some nuances in regards to where this case may be heading.
In the year 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (also known as the TVPA, or Trafficking in Persons Protocol). The U.S. Department of Justice stated that with the enactment of the TVPA, “the U.S. Government was equipped with new tools and resources to mount a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to eliminate modern forms of slavery domestically and internationally.”  Source


The TVPA defines Trafficking in Persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

The TVPA defined the term ‘commercial sex act’ means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person. Source  However, sex trafficking involves some form of forced or coerced sexual exploitation that is not limited to prostitution. Source

Is the requirement to produce personally compromising photos (pornography) a form of sexual exploitation? Lawmakers would argue yes, yes, yes! Human trafficking is about more than enforced prostitution.

One powerful strength of the TVPA was that it enabled law enforcement to consider the plight of those who were manipulated through more subtle, psychological means. Prior to this, the word ‘force’ was the primary legal weapon used to prove human trafficking, but force was considered to be physical in nature, i.e. kidnapping, chains, locked rooms, physical beatings. However, most human trafficking is not achieved through physical force, but rather, through psychological manipulation, or coercion. That is why so many human trafficking victims do not initially identify themselves as victims, but I’ll delve into that more in Part 3.

Below is a diagram that helps people understand the definition of human trafficking.

When any of the above “means” are used, then “consent” is nullified. This could be problematic for the Raniere defense. Why? Because obviously Raniere covered his tracks by generating consent media.  However, law makers know that those who control the victim, control the consent documents. Every trafficker in the world would be beyond the reach of the law if they simply coerce the victim to make documents, photographs that look happy, and videos expressing consent.

This is why CONSENT IS IRRELEVANT in human trafficking law if any of the means are used.

The TVPA was updated and reauthorized several times, and I highlighted some goodies in the 2008 reauthorization act that may apply to Raniere/NXIVM/DOS.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008

The TVPRA 2008 further improved the tools available to hold traffickers accountable by:

    • Creating new crimes that impose appropriately serious penalties on those who obstruct or attempt to obstruct the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes;
    • Permitting prosecution of sex traffickers who recklessly disregard the fact that force, fraud, or coercion would be used against the victim;
    • Eliminating the requirement to prove the defendant knew a sex trafficking victim was a minor in cases where the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe the minor;
    • Expanding the crime of forced labor by providing that “force” includes the abuse or threatened abuse of legal process;
    • Imposing criminal liability on those who, knowingly and with intent to defraud, recruit workers from outside the United States for employment within the United States by making materially false or fraudulent representations;
    • Increasing the penalty for conspiring to commit trafficking-related crimes;
  • Penalizing those who knowingly benefit financially from participating in a venture that engaged in trafficking crimes.Source

Uh oh. This could spell more trouble for the NXIVM camp.

More good news for survivors though. The TVPA recognizes that traffickers use psychological means as well as physical bondage, and it defines coercion to include: threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process. (Serious harm includes harm to reputation, harm to career, not just physical harm.) With the example of legal retaliation and professional sabotage perpetrated against our favorite NXIVM dissenters and whistleblowers, legal retaliation was surely in the forefront of the minds of the DOS victims. (Barbara Bouchey alone had to suffer through 800 legal filings totaling over 100,000 pages of court documents from retaliatory lawsuits in 4 states. Add to this what NXIVM did to Frank Parlato, Susan Dones, Toni Natali and others, and I would dare say the fear of legal retaliation for the women faced with the “choice” of joining DOS was very real. What would the consequences be if they dissented, or did not join DOS and displeased the master and his Bottom?)

And by the way, I am not talking about his literal bottom.

The Bottom

A ‘Bottom,’ or ‘Bottom Girl,’ is a favored female appointed by the trafficker/pimp to supervise the others and report rule violations. The Bottom recruits others and tries to help the “family” and the “organization” grow. The Bottom is the operational right hand of the trafficker, and she may train victims, collect money, or inflict punishments on other girls. If it turns out the Raniere is convicted of trafficking, Allison Mack’s role may well be defined as a Bottom Girl.  Bottom girls generally start out as victims, and there is a complicated overlap between victimization and exploitation. Due to the victimization path to becoming a perpetrator, anti-trafficking activists tend to have more compassion for the bottom girl than the members of the general public. I cannot comment on Allison Mack’s pathway or perpetration. I would not be surprised, however, to find yet another shocking story emerge.

“The duties of the bottom girl are clear, but for some it’s difficult to comprehend. Her responsibilities to the pimp make it easy for our society and judicial system to see her as criminal instead of a victim.  She is beaten, threatened, and forced to exert the same level of exploitation and coercion as the pimp, contributing to her dual role as victim and exploiter. The authority given to her in the pimp’s absence comes with great accountability. To whom much is given much is required.”  Source

TVPRA Gets More Teeth

As the U.S. continues to progress in its fight against human trafficking, legislation continues to be updated.

In 2013, the TVPRA amended the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act to include labor contract fraud. Does this apply to NXIVM?In 2015, the TVPRA was amended to “direct any assets forfeited in a human trafficking case to be used to satisfy a victim restitution order. It further allows forfeiture of, for example, any asset that is involved in, or is traceable to the proceeds of, human trafficking.”  Source

Will this apply to the DOS/Raniere/Mack victims if a trafficking conviction is achieved?  If you ask me, it seems inevitable. This could be great news for the survivors.

Educate Yourself

To see an expanded legislative history of federal trafficking law in the U.S., click here.

New York Legal Statutes are HERE

Stay Tuned for Part 3!


Christine Marie Katas, MBA, PhD ABD, Media Psychology Using media and technology for good and for growth

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    The case against alleged sex cult leader Keith Raniere and his accused sidekick, “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, will include not only victims of sex trafficking and forced labor but of “human smuggling” and “alien harboring” as well.

    In a filing to discuss how sensitive evidence involving the victims of Raniere’s cult — Nxivm — will be handled, Brooklyn federal prosecutors wrote that some materials identify “victims of human smuggling, alien harboring, physical or mental abuse towards an intimate partner, stalking, sexual abuse or sex trafficking.”

    Human smuggling refers to the importation of illegals into the US or the harboring of illegals already here.

  • I can’t wait to see Keith on the witness stand being cross examined by the prosecutor (though I realize he likely won’t testify).

    His love of playing “word salad” (where he uses lots of words which basically don’t say anything important) is almost comically painful to watch in videos.

    I imagine that his cross examination might sound something like this:


    Prosecutor: Mr. Raniere, isn’t it true that Ms. Mack ordered her slaves to have sex with you?


    Keith: No m’am, not at all. She was simply ordering them to remain true to their own ethical principles and to free themselves of any repressed sexual feelings which have been hindering their emotional well being.


    Prosecutor: WTF?


    Judge: Counselor, please watch your language in court.


    Prosecutor: Sorry your honor. But the answer was non responsive.


    Judge: I agree. Please answer the question, Mr. Raniere.


    Keith: I was simply saying that nobody was forced to have sex with me, they were simply asked to adopt an ethical system where their emotional well being cannot come to fruition until their repressed sexual feelings have been released. …and since our ethical system requires physical proof that they’ve accomplished this task, therefore I volunteered my body for that medical purpose.

    Keith: The sex was therefore merely incidental to their treatment; it was merely a tool and not the goal itself. It’s no different than giving a baseball bat to a baseball player or a plunger to a plumber. I gave them my body so they’d have the tools necessary to heal themselves emotionally and release their sexual ambivalence within an orgy of human relations.


    Judge: WTF?

    -But all kidding aside, he’d be DESTROYED if he gets on the witness stand. 🙂

    • Are their PDF versions of the books that he allegedly wrote? I would be curious to see whether they contain anything substantive.

  • As more information comes out, it is not looking better for VanGrifter and Allie Whack… IT LOOKS WORSE!

    This is a very serious case, with copious evidence, credible witnesses, electronic surveillance, bank records, personal data, zip drives, etc.

    Allison may spend the rest of her life in prison. And is there a video of the branding? With the slaves crying as the cauterizing pen is passed over their flesh multiple times?

    • Have you seen the video of guys in a fraternity branding each other. Took seconds. My guess is that Vantard told Dr. Evil to draw out the process…

    • The utter nonsense about anybody “prouving” innocence can only come from completely ignoring the plain-as-day information available from court filings.

  • Let’s set the record straight about the Maniac Allison Mack.
    She reveled in being called “The Madam.”
    She enjoyed her status as Keith Raniere’s “Top Pimp.”
    Allison Mack knew damned well what she was doing.

    “It’s a huge relief, but I don’t believe he’s the only one that will be arrested,” Susan says. “In the complaint, they refer to two co-conspirators, and I believe Allison Mack is conspirator number one. From what I’ve heard — from the people that have been involved in DOS and have now left — is that Keith was at the top and Allison was his top madam. She was referred to as ‘the madam’ and had a pyramid of masters and slaves,” Susan shockingly reveals.
    “I was told she loved to be called madam,” the former member adds.

  • Good luck to all the defendants trying to claim consent.

    I also wonder how Allison Mack thinks she is going to pull anything off in this case without getting on the stand, at which point, she is most certainly toast. Especially since all the electronic evidence points to her guilt.

    • Here are some excerpts from this excellent Radaronline article:

      It Gets Worse: Government Says Allison Mack’s Alleged Cult Involved Human Smuggling

      U.S. attorneys filed explosive court documents on Friday claiming they have seized evidence proving Allison Mack‘s alleged sex cult involved human smuggling, has exclusively learned.

      The shocking papers were filed in federal court. They explain in detail the scathing evidence the government has obtained against Mack and her co-defendant Keith Raniere after investigators raided their respective homes.

      The attorneys warned the defendants that the materials by the government are so damaging that the documents will need to be redacted.

      The paperwork explained: “Some victim discovery material is composed of highly sensitive information including but not limited to medical information, discussion of mental and physical conditions, photographs and videos of victims, letters and videos that alleged victims provided as ‘collateral,’ sexual history and sexual conversations.”

      Mack and Raniere’s attorneys are allowed to use the discovery material “only for the purposes of preparing and defending” their case, the documents state.

        • “Somebody SAAAAAAAAVEEEEEE Meeeeeeee!”

          “Maybe someone should fly in to rescue the 24-year-old actress from this purported “cult”?

          But Superman can’t fulfill that task, like he does on Smallville, rescuing Lana Lang from various evils and catastrophes.

          Instead, for this situation Kristin Kreuk must rely upon her personal power of critical thinking, with perhaps a little help from family, a boyfriend and/or her management team.”

          Apparently, Superman saved Kristin since it certainly wasn’t her boyfriend or management team.

          • But Superman wasn’t “faster than a speeding bullet” cuz it took him 6 years to save her.

            Both Management and Hildreth failed Kristin.
            Her advisors didn’t want to upset her and lose her as a client.
            Mark didn’t want to lose his cult status as a star-fucker.

          • Well Lana was under the spell of a twisted Braniac – who isn’t really smart at all but just a brain washer. It took Superman a while but with a little help from his Father he got her out long before the proverbial shit hit the fan. Except for a little bit of the slimy shit that was cast onto her good name the NXIVM association didn’t really impact her at all and she seems to be doing fine personally and career-wise.

  • Will have to confront whatever abuse she has personally suffered from Keith in order to testify. This is likely to be extremely painful, which might explain why she would hesitate in taking what most of us see as the ”obvious” choice from a legal perspective

    • At some point Allison Mack will have to look in the mirror and realize that she is a terrible person who has committed horrible acts to benefit an evil person.
      All in the name of female empowerment.
      That moment will be Allison Mack’s moment of truth.

  • Great article and explanation Christine!

    I said the same thing in my book – the way NXIVM organized their companies and used forced labor, could easily lead to racketeering charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act.

    Thank you for helping to expose NXSCUM!

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.” He also appeared in "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM, and was 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 premieres on May 22, 2022.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083