The Albany Times Union sponsored “NXIVM Exposed: A Pre-Trial Talk” on Monday, March 18, 2019, at the Hearst Media Center in Colonie, N.Y.. About 140 people attended.
The event featured three panelists who had experiences with Nxivm.
According to reports, Barbara Bouchey was the principal speaker and spoke about 75 percent of the time allotted for the event.
Catherine Oxenberg and Michael Grygiel, an Albany-based media lawyer who represented Suzanna Andrews of Vanity Fair after she authored an expose on NXIVM and was sued by them, also appeared.
Here are excerpts from the Times Union and eyewitness reports:
Bouchey, 59, contended that some good existed in NXIVM. This, despite being an organization that was secretive, vindictive and the product of a leader — her ex-boyfriend, Keith Raniere — whom she called a sexual predator.
Bouchey said she attended a NXIVM workshop in the late 1990s and ended up dating Raniere for eight years. She was 40 when she met Raniere. He was “intimate, gentle, kind, loving, affectionate” and helped her get over her intimacy fears.
“Yeah, what we now know was a sexual predator, a pedophile and someone who took advantage of women was not that way with me in the bedroom,” she said.
Bouchey said she has spoken to other women who were sexually involved with Raniere.
“Keith met you where you were at,” she said. “He knew how to gauge you.”
Bouchey said she thought she and Raniere had a monogamous relationship but later learned of his interest in other women — and underage girls.
She said a month before she left NXIVM, she saw a 15-year-old girl — a child from Mexico — wearing red lipstick – wrap her arms around Raniere and kiss him on the lips on a volleyball court.
“The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I thought the room was moving around me,” Bouchey said.
Bouchey pointed out that she did not join Nxivm to make money. She was already earning $1 million per year as a financial adviser — and, as she put it, “didn’t need to earn $2 million per year”. She got into Nxivm for philanthropic reasons.
During the event, Bouchey repeatedly defended what she believed were positive efforts within NXIVM. She said most people involved did not believe it was a cult. She compared NXIVM to the Catholic Church and its clergy-related child sexual abuse scandals.
She said she became part of the NXIVM inner circle and served on an executive board she now says was a “faux board.”
Bouchey said she had a major hand in developing Nxivm. In addition to crafting its organizational infrastructure, she said she created the 16-day intensive and Vanguard Week.
Even though she was a financial planner and investment adviser to Clare and Sara Bronfman, Bouchey said she never saw any financial documents or tax returns for Nxivm.
She made it clear that Nxivm was not corrupt until after she left in 2009. While she was there, she claimed that Nxivm did a lot of good to improve “the community.”
After leaving NXIVM, Bouchey said, Raniere turned on her, unleashing false accusations and lawsuits at her.
She also described her role, along with others, in taking Nxivm down.
She said she told cult deprogrammer Rick Ross that Nxivm was going through his garbage and had hired Canaprobe to investigate his personal information.
She spoke of how she enlisted Toni Natalie to help her fight Nxivm.
She explained that she figured out how to get the computer trespass case against the two of them and Joe O’Hara dismissed.
“There are many people who aren’t here today. It took a village to take NXIVM down,” Bouchey said.
Early during her appearance, a group of about 25 people, seated together, rose to give Bouchey a standing ovation.
Catherine Oxenberg, 57, also spoke at the Times Union event. She explained her story – much of which is told in her book Captive – of how she and her daughter, India, went to a NXIVM seminar in 2011.
Oxenberg said she found NXIVM’s platform full of hyperbole and platitudes and its people pushy. But India was hooked and eventually became a NXIVM coach.
“It became her entire life,” Oxenberg said.
Over time, Oxenberg and her daughter became distant. India relocated to the Albany area. One day, Oxenberg received a call from a former NXIVM member [Bonnie Piesse] who told her that India was in a secret club formed by Raniere known as “Dominus Obsequious Sororium,” or DOS, which means “Master Over the Slave Women.” Membership involved the practice of physical branding.
“I couldn’t get through to her at all. It was like there was nobody home. And I was in shock,” Oxenberg said. “I did everything wrong. I said, ‘You’re in a cult and your brainwashed.’ She said, ‘No, I’m not.’ It went nowhere. I said, ‘Well, just tell me: Are you branded?’ She actually told me the truth. She said she was. And my heart broke into a thousand pieces when she said it was ‘character building.’ I knew I’d lost her.”
When Raniere and codefendants were indicted, India began to wonder if NXIVM was all a lie, Oxenberg said.
Oxenberg said she and her daughter lived together again after Raniere’s arrest.
India is recovering, she said.
“We are in spirit back together and stronger and closer as a family,” Oxenberg said.
The room erupted in applause.
Grygiel said NXIVM tried to implicate his client Suzanna Andrews, a Vanity Fair journalist, and others by filing computer hacking claims in a civil lawsuit, alleging that they had gained unauthorized access to NXIVM’s website. The claims were dismissed, he said.
“They couldn’t sue for libel because everything was true,” Grygiel said. “So they ran into court with this manufactured computer trespass claim to try to wreak havoc on a tremendously talented journalist …” he said of Andrews.
At one point, Grygiel objected to Bouchey’s repeated assertions that Nxivm did a lot of good.
Grygiel said Nxivm was always bad. It broke up families, separated husbands and wives and parents from children. It broke up relationships and was a force for evil.
Bouchey disagreed and suggested that much of what Grygiel said was merely rumors.