By Dianne Lipson
On Friday, Lauren Salzman, 42, took the stand in the trial against Keith Alan Raniere. She was dressed in a black pant suit. At times she approached tears and spoke sometimes in a shaky voice. She avoided looking at Raniere during her testimony.
Keith, dressed in a blue sweater with a white shirt underneath, stared at her intently – sometimes not taking his eyes off of her for considerable periods of time.
She testified readily, despite the embarrassing nature of the topics.
Here is some of what we heard yesterday:
She spoke only a little about Daniela, the woman kept in a room for two years under the threat of sending her back to her native Mexico.
Lauren also acknowledged recruiting slaves for DOS and extorting them by demanding collateral that could be used for blackmail if they refused orders. But they didn’t dwell on that.
The prosecution seemed more intent on her describing life with Raniere.
“I was a slave with Keith as my master. I had other slaves under me.”
“He was my master. He was my most important person. I looked up to him. I wanted to be like him.”
“I considered him an authority on almost everything.”
There was testimony about how Lauren was unhappy about a writing project that had been assigned to her. This was an ethical breach because Lauren was visibly unhappy.
Keith had given her the assignment, and her unhappiness was destructive because it would make it look like the Nxivm ‘tech’ didn’t work and like she was destroying others’ perception of Keith.
She was acting mindless, comfortable and lazy. It was bad to be upset in front of people.
Lauren apologized profusely.
The Volleyball incident
There was another, more serious ethical breach that occurred during one of the late-night volleyball sessions – where women came to watch Keith play and sometimes participate in games. This ethical breach occurred in 2011.
At a game, Lauren playfully jumped on a man. She called it “roughhousing”.
Raniere was furious. “He said, ‘You straddled him,’” Lauren testified.
As a member of his harem, Lauren was not allowed to be with another man, only Keith.
[Keep in mind Raniere was having sex with some 20 other women at the time.]
Though she was only horsing around at volleyball, Keith told her this was inappropriate. It showed she wanted to be with other men. He accused her of being “easy” and, he declared, they could never have children together.
When Lauren described this, she was close to tears, if not crying.
Lauren had to devise a plan to heal her ethical breach. She presented him with a lengthy email describing all that was wrong with her, and what she would do to correct them.
In her “plan,” she wrote, “I’m perceived as easy or available.”
“This degrades me and sets a bad example for the organization and reflects poorly on Keith and his choice to be with me,” the “plan” said.
She told jurors, “I saw myself as dysfunctional.”
Siobhan [a gay woman familiar to readers of Frank Report] was a Nxivm member. She and her wife, Christine, wanted to have a baby. They wanted to use an anonymous sperm donor.
This was a terrible thing to do – to not to want Keith’s sperm, because this might change the perception of Keith. He was deeply offended, even though he planned to reject the request anyway.
Siobhan was subsequently not eligible to participate in Nxivm business opportunities.
“He didn’t understand why she didn’t want him as the donor,” Salzman testified.
Salzman also recalled that Raniere said his child would receive reduced tuition to Rainbow Cultural Gardens.
“His children would have 50% off on that,” Lauren told jurors.
Lauren described the inner circle.
There was Dawn Morrison, Nancy Salzman, Lauren herself, Barbara Bouchey, Kathy Russell, Daniela, Mariana, Camilla, Loretta Garza, Monica Duran, Ivy Nevares [Ivy was another who was promised a child and never got one], Daniela, Clare Bronfman, Jim Del Negro, Alex Betancourt, Jack Levy, Emiliano Salinas, Nicki Clyne, Allison Mack and others.
The women in Keith’s inner circle had sexual relationships with Keith and knew about each other.
At some point, Daniela and Ivy were excluded from the inner circle.
Some left. [Editor’s note: Bouchey left in 2009, when Susan Dones, with her spouse Kim Woolhouse, after careful deliberations, and several private meetings with Keith, decided to lead seven women out of Nxivm. Dones filmed Raniere for 10 hours during those meetings.]
Lauren describes the role of Pamela Cafrtiz, who Lauren said was Raniere’s closest girlfriend. Pam came from a wealthy family and was friends with Mariana. The three of them, Keith, Pam and Mariana were inseparable. [They lived together].
The government asked if this relationship was romantic or sexual.
Lauren answered yes.
Lauren spoke about the rankings in Nxivm. Keith was first. Then Nancy. Then the purple sashes, which were [the late] Pam Cafritz and [the late] Barbara Jeske. Then came the greens. [Lauren is a green. Other girlfriends of Keith were also greens such as Dawn Morrison and Barbara Bouchey].
Clare Bronfman’s role was to support Keith. Clare was characterized as being responsible for some of the bad media. And she was trying to make amends and covering costs related to that.
There were private nicknames Keith gave women. Lauren’s nickname was Forlorn [For-Lauren] because she was sad and suffering. Suffering was seen as indulgence.
“Suffering was something indulgent,” Lauren testified Keith taught.
DOS First Line Slaves
Lauren explained the pyramid structure of DOS with its system of masters and slaves. Keith was called master or grandmaster, depending on what level of slave one was.
DOS, she said, was also known as “The Vow.”
Lauren was a first line slave. Her own slaves would call Keith, ‘Grandmaster’, while she called him “master.”.
Lauren admitted she concealed from DOS recruits that Raniere was involved. [She lied to the women and told them it was a female-only sorority for female empowerment, leaving out the critical fact that it was led by a man.]
The prosecution showed a chart of the first line slaves in a circle around Raniere.
Lauren named the eight first line DOS slaves who answered directly to Raniere:
They were: Herself, Allison Mack, Loreta Garza, Rosa Laura Junco, Nicki Clyne, Monica Duran, Dani Padilla [the woman who had the sex toys shipped to her] and Camilia [now in her late 20s, who is the Mexican woman Raniere is accused of sexually exploiting when she was 15.]
Lauren described meetings of the first line slaves.
At the start of the meetings, the first line slaves would offer tribute to their master, Raniere.
When Raniere was in attendance, the eight women would remove their clothes and sit on the floor in front of him, while he sat in a chair and spoke.
If he was not in attendance, they would pose for a naked group photo and send it to him, making sure that their pubic brands with his initials were visible.
“At the start of every meeting, we would take a naked photograph for Keith. It had to be fully frontally naked and our brands had to show. We had to look uniform and fully happy,” Lauren said.
After removing their clothes and taking the picture, first line members would discuss DOS business such as recruitment, a project for a book titled, “The Game” and creating “a dungeon.”
The group met in secret three times a week for 10 hours. At first, the meetings were held in someone’s house. Later, they got a house for this purpose that was called the “sorority house.”
When Keith attended the meetings, the women all got naked as Keith sat in a chair, fully clothed.
“When he attended, we would all get undressed and sit below him,” Salzman said. “He would sit above us on a chair” with his clothes on.”
“We would talk about a lot of different things, philosophical concepts.” she testified.
When the information came out about DOS [On the Frank Report] enrollment stopped. But after awhile, Keith wanted to start up enrollment again. This never happened. [Frank Report halted DOS].
How long have you known Keith? Lauren was asked. She answered 20 years.
Lauren said, in 1998, when she was a senior in college, she was introduced to Raniere by her mother Nancy.
Nancy told her daughter that she and Raniere were starting a “human-potential school” and was excited about her work with Keith.
“I thought he was a little strange,” testified Salzman. “I felt awkward around Keith at first.”
After she graduated, Lauren traveled. Then she came back to live with her mother.
Nancy wanted Lauren to attend ESP [Nxivm] classes for six months and if she did that, Nancy said she would support anything Lauren chose to do. Salzman, then 21, enrolled in the program.
At the end of six months, Lauren wanted to stay with ESP. She thought Keith was a really smart guy with innovative ideas.
Keith encouraged Lauren to move out of her mother’s house. At the same time, Keith encouraged Nancy to start charging Lauren rent. Lauren started looking for somebody else to live with.
Lauren soon began to consult with Keith on everything. Before planning to make a trip out of town, buying a house, visiting grandparents and medical decisions, she sought his advice and permission.
Raniere advised her on her ideal weight. He even offered to examine her in her underwear to be certain. She stripped down to her underwear and he told her that she should weigh 100 lbs, Salzman said. [She is about 5’4”].
“He thought a good weight for me would be around 100 pounds,” she said.
She first had sex with Raniere on April 1, 2001. [April Fools].
Lauren said she was fully devoted to Raniere after their sexual relationship began in 2001, even though he openly slept with other women.
“For me, it was a monogamous relationship,” Salzman testified.
She kept the affair a secret from her mother and the NXIVM community at Raniere’s insistence. Lauren said it wasn’t easy keeping their affair secret from her mother.
Their affair continued for the next eight years – from 2001 to about 2008 or 2009. Then there was a break. The next time they had any kind of physical relationship was in 2017.
In 2005, he took nude pictures of her on a bed in his library, which later wound up in the hands of the government when they raided the house. Lauren was shy about taking these pictures. She was worried that somebody else would see the photos, but Keith told her not to worry.
Lauren testified that Keith preferred a woman who did not trim or shave her pubic hair. If she loved him, she wouldn’t do that. [She didn’t.]
Keith suffered to have sex with other women
In explaining why he had to have sex with other women, Lauren said Keith explained it as a hardship that he endured to further the women’s personal growth.
Raniere claimed his sexual duties with the women were “sometimes very difficult” — but the self sacrificing Raniere said he believed he could use sex as a tool for “personal growth” for women, Salzman said.
Lauren became aware that many women were unhappy about their relationship with Keith because there were so many other women.
If anybody wanted to leave, Lauren would help them to find out why were they having this emotional reaction.
If you had a reaction, an emotional reaction, about Keith having all these other women, this was an opportunity for you to work through your issues. And if you left, you were denying yourself this opportunity to work through your own issues, Keith taught.
When women would become upset about the other women he was sleeping with, and think about leaving, Raniere would ask Lauren to lure the women back.
Lauren did this by explaining Keith’s philosophy that people’s emotions were reactions to inner issues, not outside events.
“If you left, you would be covering up that issue and your opportunity to work it through,” Lauren explained. “…Stay and be happy. Be joyful.”
Promise of a child
One day Lauren herself wanted to leave Raniere. Lauren was actually hoping Keith would end the relationship, but he didn’t. Lauren was trying to be strong enough to leave.
After reuniting with a flame from high school, Lauren wanted to not be one of 20 women and be another man.
Raniere’s reaction to this was that he said he was considering resigning as the Vanguard.
Her mother worked to keep her involved and told her she had to learn how to be mindful and that it would be terrible if the leader of the community resigned because of her.
Keith, to help keep Lauren in his harem, promised her a child.
“He told me that if I stayed he would invest in our relationship and we would have children,” Lauren said.
But they never did.
Raniere was viewed among the inner circle as possessing supernatural powers.
There were myths about Keith that he could control the weather.
If there was a snowstorm after he developed a new teaching, Salzman said, many in Nxivm would attribute the change in weather to the ideas he presented.
There was a story that he strolled through a rain shower without getting wet while the woman he was walking with got drenched.
Raniere was walking with a female friend and she was not agreeing or understanding Raniere.
It rained on the woman but not on Keith. Only the woman got wet.
Lauren did not take this as a metaphor, but an actual incident.
“It was raining,” Salzman explained. “But it wasn’t raining on him.”
People also believed technology acted “funny” around Keith because of his “energy”, Salzman said.
Because of Keith’s vibration, he went through a lot of computers, because he had a special energy.
There was a point where Keith wanted to have sex with more than one woman at the same time. He said threesomes were key to “personal growth.”
Lauren named a half-dozen women she said the two of them had sex with, including Allison Mack.
“Initially, I participated because I was curious,” Lauren said.
Later she continued because “he wanted that.”
Keith was insatiable and for a time wanted threesomes every day. It was more than Pam Cafritz wanted and she complained about it.
After being promised to have a child with Keith – which never occurred, Lauren had a total meltdown when she found out Mariana was pregnant. [Mariana gave birth to Keith’s son in August 2017].
She became upset, hurtful. Her reaction created difficulties with Mariana and, in the end, Lauren had to apologize for her immature behavior.
She ended up committing to stay with Keith without any sexual relationship or to ever have any children.
Lauren will resume her testimony on Monday morning.