Editor’s Note: Christine Marie Katas, MBA, MA, is an author, speaker, human rights activist and women’s empowerment advocate. She is also a survivor of cult-based sex trafficking and founder of Voices for Dignity, a 501(C)3 organization hat facilitates support, education and services for people who have survived coercive control groups and human trafficking.
She is a Certified Life Coach, Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate, Certified Clinical Trauma Specialist (CCTS-I) and Sex Trafficking & Sex Industry Specialist (CCTS-S). She lives in Southern Utah.
Christine Marie also has a personal connection to Keith Raniere. She dated Raniere in 1998 when he was launching Nxivm. She has told her story on Frank Report in the past. Of her experiences, Christine Marie wrote for Frank Report on Dec. 29, 2017, [this was before Raniere was arrested], “Keith Raniere tried to get me tied up with a slave contract.”
Clearly, Keith planned years before DOS to try to enforce female slavery to him using written agreements.
Christine Marie told Frank Report, “When I felt sick about signing that slave contract, [in 1998] Keith ripped it up, but held it over my head….. I never got sucked into NXIVM, but Keith normalized sexual slavery as just sort of a guy’s kinky fantasy play. Soon after, when I met a man with the same disposition, I had my guard down. I thought, ‘If the smartest man in the world was into this harmless kink, it can’t be that abnormal.’ But the minute I let my guard down, I found myself stuck in the lair of a predator similar to Keith – and that’s how I ended up as a survivor of human trafficking. Ironically, Keith knew about this guy. That is why I founded Voices for Dignity, and how I developed my human trafficking expertise.”
Christine Marie deserves credit for practicing what she preaches. She was one of the first people to come forward in her own name and on the record for Frank Report to help expose Raniere. This was prior to his arrest when he was still at large and ready to spend a fortune to destroy his enemies.
She also was one of the first to recognize elements of sex trafficking in early stories published about NXIVM and called authorities [who did nothing] because she said she wasn’t hearing the word “trafficking” come up in any articles about Nxivm. That is, she said, until June 2017 when Frank Report broke the branding story.
Today, Christine Marie regularly speaks on panels and at conferences on the intersection of cults and human trafficking. Here is her latest article for Frank Report.
By Christine Marie Katas
I am gratified to see that the EDNY has validated the crimes of human trafficking against these DOS women. In case some members of the public, and possibly even some members of DOS, do not understand how what occurred could be classified as human trafficking since it looks nothing like “typical” sex trafficking portrayed in the media, I want to provide a little more education.
After all, it appears that these women consented, right?
“Consent assumes a physical power to act and a reflective, determined, and unencumbered exertion of these powers. It is an act unaffected by fraud, duress, or sometimes even mistake when these factors are not the reason for the consent” (Legal Dictionary, 2014).
In other words, consent under duress is not true consent. Did the DOS women truly consent?
In human trafficking cases where there is force, fraud or coercion, consent is irrelevant. In other words, a victim can consent at the beginning of a relationship, but the moment there is force, fraud, or coercion to prevent the victim from freely walking away without fear of consequence, the original consent has been invalidated. The fact that DOS women had to provide collateral before they even knew what they were getting into, in my opinion, nullifies consent from the onset. They were enslaved.
For those women who participated in DOS but were not in the trial, the verdicts against Keith may make them wonder if they were victims of human trafficking as well.
My answer is a most likely, yes.
I recommend you find out for sure so you can get the support you need right now.
For those in New York, I recommend contacting the Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women (CATW) at http://www.catwinternational.org/Help/Contact.
You will be asked to explain what happened, be given a case # (ask for it), and it is highly likely that you will be accepted into their database as a survivor of human trafficking, making you eligible for services such as therapy, or group support.
Finally, you can always call me – 435-612-2444.
The United Nations (2004) has defined human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons” (the act), “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” (the means), for the purpose of exploitation including “commercial and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, forced marriage, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, or forced childbirth” (Trafficking Protocol, 2004, p. 42).
Only one act and one means must be present in order to define the exploitation as human trafficking.
Recruitment includes convincing, converting, enticing or manipulating the person. Clearly, this happened in DOS. Force can be accomplished through either physical or psychological means. Exploited children, such as Cami, do not need any of the ‘means’ to meet the definition of trafficking. Taking nude photos of a child [Cami was 15 when Raniere took nudes of her in 2005] is a form of sexual exploitation. As a child, she could not consent to that. Whether Cami realizes it or not, she would qualify as a victim of human trafficking according to the United Nations definitions.
For adults, consent is irrelevant if any of the above ‘means’ were used to accomplish the exploitation (Trafficking Protocol, 2004). Let’s review trafficking in terms of the adult members of DOS.
Act Means Purpose: Exploitation
Recruitment Threat, or Use of Force Sexual exploitation
Holding Coercion Coerced labor or services
Harboring Fraud Slavery or similar practices
Transferring Deception Removal of organs
Transporting Abduction Forced marriage
Receiving Abuse of power Prostitution of others
Abuse of vulnerability Debt bondage
Receiving Payments or benefits Other form of exploitation
One from each category above meets the definition of trafficking. I have underlined the obvious ones that I see in DOS, the Dani, and Cami situation.
Others may apply as well.
Human trafficking is primarily about exploiting vulnerabilities. A common misperception is that human trafficking only happens to foreign children, or that it requires physical force, abduction, being locked up, or being transported across borders (Polaris Project, 2014).
Actually, human trafficking does not require movement across borders at all, as the Raniere verdict shows.
It can take place within a single location and does not require an individual to be physically shackled or held in bondage.
Did you know that most trafficking victims are not physically locked up? Rather, they have powerful psychological chains that prevent them from leaving. Exploited individuals can have the ability to leave the premises, yet still qualify as victims of human trafficking.
“Many human-trafficking cases appear to fall somewhere between consent and coercion. Those who are willing are easier to coerce. Thus, trafficked persons often begin as voluntary” (Kim 2011, p. 461).
An example of this would be a woman who originally consented to being exploited, but later was forced or coerced to continue the program after she desired to quit. Once there is force, fraud or coercion to compel a woman to stay in her situation, she becomes a trafficking victim and her initial consent is invalidated (Farley, 2003).
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2012), or UNODC, describes vulnerability as “those inherent, environmental or contextual factors that increase the susceptibility of an individual or group to being trafficked” (p. 15). Factors of vulnerability include poverty, inequality, discrimination, gender-based violence, precarious social status, lack of social networks, dependency, threats to disclose sensitive information, the abuse of an emotional or romantic relationship, and even religious and cultural beliefs.
The United Nations defines the “abuse of power” as “any situation in which the person involved has no real and acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved”
In the case of DOS, threatening the release of collateral was the abuse of a vulnerability as well.
Furthermore, in human trafficking cases, it is common for victims to not even realize they are victims!
Why? Because often human trafficking takes place in the context of relationships to which the victims originally ‘consented.’ Relationships can be further sealed by ‘trauma bonds’ which are very difficult to break. Those in these precarious relationships where there is an imbalance of power may do what is necessary to make peace with their impossible circumstances, including making the best of their situations. This could include acting happy, or providing ‘evidence’ that they are acting on their own free will.
The reason this kind of evidence is invalidated as a defense in the courts is because the predator who controls the victim controls the creation of the defense evidence!
It is commonplace for traffickers to get their victims to create evidence like smiling photos, letters, videos, contracts – things they can use for their defense later. In the Raniere case, the prosecution wisely covered this. Even genuine moments of happiness and love in a relationship do not negate the elements of trafficking. They were recruited, coerced, and exploited – the three prongs needed to meet the definition of human trafficking.
John Little, a former slave in antebellum America, explained how they used moments of happiness as a survival tool, but this did not negate the atrocities against them.
“They say slaves are happy, because they laugh, and are merry. I myself and three or four others, have received two hundred lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters; yet, at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains. Happy men we must have been! We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken: that is as true as the gospel!”
John Little and his fellow slaves were as brutalized and abused as human beings can be, yet they tried to make the best of it so they could survive. No one could ever use that as evidence that they were happy in their slavery.
For those of you in DOS that might question whether you are really a victim of trafficking since you wrote letters expressing happiness or provided collateral, your brain did what it needed to do to survive. Period.
Please do not blame yourself!
This must be a very tender time for those of you who were in DOS, including Lauren Salzman, Allison Mack, and Dr. Danielle Roberts, who I have no doubt were also coerced to play the roles they did, and would also meet the definition of trafficking victims.
Traffickers commonly coerce women (or men) to become the enforcers with severe threats against them if they do not comply. When a brain is under duress or threat of avoiding harm, it engages survival thinking, not critical thinking. Let us continue to focus the blame on one person: the trafficker himself, Keith Raniere.
Now, there is something all of you can do to help other victims in the future.
Please write to the various human trafficking organizations and ask them to include literature and photos that are also representative of cult-based trafficking. So often these organizations will have only photos of stereotypical international trafficking in their materials, making it awkward when a survivor of cult-based trafficking goes to the web site to explore whether to call them for help.
I have long been advocating for these organizations to acknowledge the role of religion and cults as tools of human trafficking, but change is slow.
I have compassion for you all and grieve for your life losses. Please feel free to reach out for help. And I invite all NXIVM survivors to come to Southern Utah by Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon for a healing retreat! My organization, Voices for Dignity, facilitates horse therapy, art therapy etc. How about a healing reunion in mid-August? Anyone up for this? Let me know.
Remember, I’m here for any of you even if you just want to talk 435-612-2444.