Former Cult Member: ‘I’m a survivor, not a victim’

[Editor’s note: Here G, a former cult member – not Nxivm – describes some of her life and how she broke free from the “cult” she was once a member of.]

By G – A Former Cult Member:

From early on, within weeks, I started to question things I suspected.

I was young, naive, innocent. The cognitive dissonance was high (I didn’t know the words at the time but I do now and what they mean).

Things were kept from me. Like NXIVM, you had to work your way up by taking classes but only if your area leader vetted you, and that vetting depended on not just tithing, but abundantly sharing, bringing in new recruits by inviting them to fellowship, getting them to take the foundational class, always projecting an “up” mood, using sex – yes, sex – as a recruitment tool, living with other like-minded believers, going “WOW,” only reading, and listening to approved ministry material, etc.

Get the picture?

I did question, many times, what I suspected. I was hauled in front of leadership, chastised, beaten down, verbally attacked.

Just like in Scientology, there were “knowledge reports” though under another name. I was a sheep among wolves.

I realized, after I left, I had been “marked and avoided” aka shunned, because I wasn’t invited to ministry functions, then again, I was slowly asserting my independence by coming and going as I pleased, etc.

I was not about to do, as I saw someone else, burn ALL my bridges and be totally reliant on what crumbs they might toss me if I were a good believer in their eyes.

Poverty is a harsh mistress. I knew what it was like to sleep in my car, thus I was not about to “believe God” as they termed it, and leave everything.  My safety net was me.

I believe my breaking point was when a WOW family I knew tried to set me up AKA pimp me out to a guy they were attempting to recruit.  The look on my face said it all. I was horrified.

As I said, I was shunned by the group though I lived in the same house.  My housemate left. My fellowship leader, and the other two believers, ignored me for the most part. My area leader, who I thought was my friend, stopped all contact with me. I moved. Alone.

No one ever contacted me from the group, ever,to this day.  I was truly alone. No family, no friends. Just my job.  I would go to work, come home and cry. For an entire year, I cried.

I made it through, though, as you can see

Names change, behaviors do not, and all of these groups use the same dynamics and it all comes down to power and sex. Just like NXIVM.

Oddly, about 15 years after leaving, I located the couple who were the area leader, whom I thought were my friends. We exchanged emails a few times and then the invitation came to a ministry get together.

I balked, saying I thought we were friends once upon a time, that I thought to rekindle a friendship.  Her reply was cold. She said this was all she had to give me.

See nothing changed. Even though her and her husband were no longer affiliated with the founder’s group their incarnation of it was the same old shtick.

This is why I am so adamant NXIVM must not in any form be resurrected. Let it die and be buried six feet under, away from the light of day, so no one is ever hurt by it again.

By the way I do not term myself a victim. Survivor, yes, but not a victim.

I have learned to measure the good vs. the bad. Too many people have been hurt, thus NXIVM must perish.

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Don’t make me laugh. G never took Nxivm she does not know the good it did for all of us. Even the people who left Nxivm still use the tech every day.

  • Amen to NX must perish, g!

    I used to go a bit ballistic whenever it seemed someone was determined to revive or perpetuate NXIVM/ESP or it’s “offshoot” companies — especially Girls By Design, those that dealt directly in pedophile recruitment, IMO.

    As this case unwinds, however, I am more and more confident that that will never happen.

    The fact that the Nexus of NX, etc. was and is KAR’s abnormal predation on adolescents is finally being internationally exposed.

    While you could say it didn’t make a dif in 2012 — I believe that was bc the reports were so strictly contained to the Albany, NY area, so strongly discredited and not followed up on by ANY law enforcers.

    Still, vigilance and continued public outcry is warranted lest KAR, NX, ESP, GBD, Rainbow Cult Garden etc. try to rise again.

  • NXIVM must perish, but you can’t even name the cult you were in to help others not join it? That means you don’t really care, you’re just stroking your own ego.

    • G, you seem to have missed my point. I said you would not have joined this (so far unnamed) cult if you hadnt believed that it offered you some positive benefits. As with any cult or scam, people are not attracted to join if it portrays itself in a negative light.

      My comment had absolutely nothing to do with believing that NXIVM should continue to operate in some capacity. I never said that, and neither did anyone else.

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.

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