By Dianne Lipson
This is part 5 of Nicole’s Friday testimony.
As Nicole continued her Friday testimony [examined by Assistant US Attorney Moira Penza], the horrors of DOS continued to be revealed unabated.
There were acts of care that Nicole had to do for Allison.
There was an assignment where she had to tell Alison a secret every hour.
There was a 10-page sex survey, with all kinds of questions – about her first sexual experience, her likes and dislikes.
At one point, there was some humor in the courtroom as Nicole testified.
It was testimony about one of India’s slaves, [a woman named Jay who is expected to testify after Nicole].
Nicole was asked if Jay was India’s slave, did that made Allison her grandmaster.
Then Nicole was then asked what was Keith called?
Was it Great Grandmaster?, Nicole asked, She couldn’t think of the name. She asked Moira Penza what she thought.
Penza said, “No, you tell me.”
There was laughter in the courtroom.
But it soon turned horrific again when we got to the branding.
Danielle Roberts D.O. was in charge. She had already been branded in Brooklyn by a professional. Danielle was learning how to use the cauterizing pen.
Allison told Nicole what the brand meant: Earth, water, fire. One line was the horizon in the mountains and the water and it was sealed by fire [the cauterizing pen].
Allison did not tell Nicole that it was Keith Alan Raniere’s initials.
During the branding session, the slaves were naked in the room. Allison was not naked. She wore a white dress.
They were instructed to say they were giving their lives to their master [Allison] and everything was for their master to help them rebuild their lives.
Then as the white-hot cauterizing pen was about to descend on their pubic region, they were required to say, “Master, please brand me”, this said on a massage table, as the slave was held down by the other slaves – and as Dr. Roberts wielded the painful cauterizing pen, purportedly drawing the mountains and the water and the horizon – that somehow formed the initials K-A-R [for Keith Alan Raniere].
Michelle was in a lot of pain. Then India was branded. Nicole didn’t want to say what the slaves were supposed to say.
At the ceremony, they read something about showing their love through pain. Allison said that during the actual pain, Nicole should think of Allison.
Nicole thought “No fucking way.”
She was crying as she testified, and she said, in order to cope with the pain of the branding, she did not think about Allison. She thought about how much pain she would go through for her family.
She testified, “It really, really fucking hurt.”
It hurt so much that Nicole realized she was not as strong as she thought.
And, if this pain didn’t end soon, she didn’t know how she could handle it. It continued and Nicole became disconnected from her body.
Afterward, when it was over, Nicole testified, it was “an adrenaline rush. You kind of feel strong in a weird way. And you can’t believe that you just did it.”
Nicole thought she could treat the brand as an “ancient symbol of strength.” Nicole said she recalled that at the time that it looked like a “cool ancient symbol.”
Nicole later learned it was Keith’s initials.
Penza asked, “Do you still have the brand?”
Nicole started crying for a few moments. Then she said, “Yes, I do.”
[When she said this, I looked at Keith. He was busy as usual. Taking notes, moving, staring at Nicole. He did not show any kind of reaction.]
The testimony continued. There was more pressure to recruit slaves. They were told to find someone with a joy for life, a sparkle in their eyes. [Keith would take that out of them to be sure.]
If there was anyone they were thinking of recruiting, they had to send that woman’s picture to Allison, with the understanding that it would be sent to Keith. They would have to be okayed by Keith and Allison beforehand.
Keith wanted Nicole to spend more time in Albany. There was pressure for her to remain in Albany for a year.
Nicole testified that there was a pattern with Allison and Jay [India’s slave]. Allison would be really kind and loving toward Jay, then she would undercut her. Once, Jay went to volleyball with no bra on.
Allison said it was too sexy. It wasn’t okay for Jay to draw attention to her figure.
The women were not supposed to use their sexuality, but they were also ordered to lose weight so they looked good. And there were all these sexual things happening. There were a lot of mixed messages, Nicole felt.
Then came the period when people started leaving Nxivm and DOS. [Spring and Summer 2017]
The first person to leave was Mark Vicente. At first, the party line was that Mark had left in an honorable way. But that changed – and the Nxivm High-Rank started to say that Mark was destructive.
Then Mark Hildreth [the man who brought her into Nxivm] left.
Then she heard how Sarah’s husband, Anthony Ames, had seen his wife’s brand and all hell broke loose at a meeting. Sarah left, giving up her Vancouver Nxivm Center.
Allison said at one point, sarcastically, to Nicole, “You can leave if you want to destroy everything!”
Nicole didn’t think she would be destroying everything if she left but when Allison said, “It put that [leaving] as a reality in my head.”
Nicole started to pay attention to what was happening in the Nxivm companies. There was disorder in the ranks. People were calling each other. Some left. Rachel left, then Soukie.
That had a big effect on Nicole because Nicole felt Soukie was in it as deep and as intensely as Nicole. This gave Nicole strength.
Nicole again tried to tell Allison that she wanted to leave. Allison snapped at her.
Allison said, “Why are you still even here? What if you knew your collateral would not be released, would you still remain?”
Nicole thought this was all surreal. She was desperate to get out. She took the first step. Nicole told Allison she didn’t want to work for The Source anymore. Allison said that was okay.
Nicole testified she became aware of a blog called Frank Report. The blog was about Keith and the people in Nxivm. Then Nicole appeared on that blog.
An article said “Nicole was the sex slave of Keith Raniere.” She said reading that gave her that last little bit of courage she needed – that flash of reality. From reading that, she said, she thought about what had happened to her.
It made her think, “She didn’t join a woman’s empowerment group to become a man’s sex slave.”
She told Allison she’s not doing DOS anymore.
It felt nice to say it, but they still had her collateral. Nicole made her resignation letter conciliatory, partly because they had her collateral. And partly because she didn’t want to be mean to Allison or India.
Nicole says she didn’t understand until later how abusive it had been.
Allison pressured Nicole to come in person to tell everybody that she was leaving.
Nicole rented a car and drove to Albany. Before she left, Nicole told her roommate she was going. She rented the car because she had to have control over the situation. She wasn’t going to allow anybody to pick her up at the train.
The roommate took Allison’s address and said she would stay up until Nicole got home.
They met at Allison’s house. Michelle, Danielle Roberts, and India were seated on the floor. Allison said that Nicole had to sit on a chair. “She can’t sit on the floor anymore,” Allison said.
Nicole was asked why she was leaving. She said it was because she wanted to take control of her life.
Allison said her collateral would not be released, “So, you’re choosing to leave.”
Allison added, “Look what you’re doing to India. India has not eaten for days because of this.”
India said, “No, that’s not exactly true.”
Allison told Nicole that she was breaking everything. How could Nicole live with herself? How could she sleep at night?
“You gave your word.”
Nicole sat there and listened. She knew she was leaving.
India made a comment that Keith needed collateral in order to trust people. Nicole knew that didn’t make sense.
Allison had the keys to Nicole’s apartment in New York. She threw them on the table.
Nicole was also supposed to meet Keith and tell him in person. Keith kept putting off the time. He said he thought it was supposed to be 10 am, not 10 pm.
He said that he could meet her in the early morning. He had volleyball, which ended at 3 am. But then after volleyball, he had something to do.
She waited and waited then finally she decided to drive away.
Keith texted her, “I’m just walking up to meet you.”
Nicole parked her car and met him.
Keith asked how things went with the girls. He said the girls were hurt. Then Keith asked if Nicole was going to give him back the money? [She had taken some money Keith offered when he was pushing her to spend more time in Albany.]
Nicole said she saw flashes of anger on Keith’s face.
Nicole said, “You gave it to me.”
Keith said “It was given to you as my lifetime partner. And now you’re breaking that.”
Then he said, “Will, I ever see you again?”
Nicole said, “Probably not.”
“Will I ever talk to you again?”
He asked if Nicole would speak negatively about Nxivm?
Nicole said “No,”.
It was 5 am. She had been up 24 hours. She was tired, emotionally exhausted. But she kept going. She knew she had to get out of Albany once and for all. Her roommate was waiting, to make sure she got home safely. They communicated on the phone.
Keith continued. He said, “You guys think you have it so bad, but this is nothing compared to other subcultures.”
After Nicole left, she didn’t want to cause any problems. She told her parents about the collateral and how it affected her. She had a godmother who was a psychologist and the godmother helped her not to feel bad about what happened.
She did not tell the sex part of DOS and Keith to her parents. They didn’t know about it until they read it. She did tell her roommate and put herself in therapy.
And that’s how her testimony ended on Friday.
Nicole will continue her direct examination on Monday – and then face cross-examination.
It is anticipated that another witness – Jay, India’s slave – will take the stand on Monday as well.