This is part of our Lauren Salzman series wherein we examine the testimony of one of the top Nxivm leaders and the only one to testify against her Vanguard.
The purpose of our study is to try to ascertain Lauren’s ratio of being a perpetrator versus being a victim.
This post centers around Frank Report, followed by the New York Times revealing DOS.
Frank Report first revealed DOS in June 2017. The NY Times, crediting Frank Report with breaking the branding story, was published in October 2017.
It examines the reaction that Keith had [which was to lie] and examines Lauren’s role [which was to lie for Keith] – and reveals that Lauren had a pretty good understanding that what she was doing at the time was not only dishonest but coercive.
Tanya Hajjar is examining Lauren on the witness stand.
She begins by asking about one of the DOS slaves [Carly] who, like other slaves began asking for their collateral back after the Frank Report revealed that DOS was led by Raniere.
In these questions and answers, we see how clearly Lauren understood the coercive nature of the collateral.
Although Lauren is at times wordy and inarticulate and seems to still speak in Raniere ‘word salad’ at times, it is clear Lauren understood what she was doing – but utterly blocked her conscience. She is now facing prison, and on the stand, she is readily admitting guilt – as she is led to condemn the man she followed like a mindless cretin for 20 years.
Q Did Carly [a DOS slave under Lauren] express negative views about her experience in DOS?
A She was. She was expressing that. She was saying she felt she had been lied to, that Keith’s identity was withheld as well as other information that she felt was withheld until she gave collateral and then she learned about the brand and the collar and then she was upset about the way that the leadership was handling it and felt that we were all lying to her – which we were.
Q Around this time, Ms. Salzman, were there efforts to aggregate and to secure collateral?
A Yes, there were.
Q And at this point, was it your understanding that collateral would be released if a DOS slave left or spoke out publicly about DOS?
A Initially it was and when it became public [through the Frank Report] there were discussions where Keith wasn’t sure that we should release the collateral.
Q Were there discussions with the defendant where he considered whether or not to release collateral?
Q Did the defendant express a concern about releasing collateral at that point after it had been made public?
A Yeah, that it would validate the allegations being made against us [by Frank Report] and also wouldn’t serve any purpose because the purpose that it was given for was already broken. [The secret of the existence of DOS was now known to the greater Nxivm community.]
Q At this time were there efforts to discredit the allegations that were made by former DOS slaves including Sarah [Edmondson]?
Q What were those efforts?
A We made efforts to show that — to discredit her [Sarah’s] accounting of her branding ceremony and pointing to inconsistencies in her statements as well as sharing alternate hypotheses about why she had actually left that wasn’t this.
Q And were there other statements or efforts you made to discredit those allegations?
A Well, in conjunction with creating the website [that claimed the brand was an earth symbol not Keith’s initials], Keith wanted us to write like position statements. We didn’t ever release those but we [the First Line slave masters] all wrote position statements as well as securing testimonials that DOS was a positive experience and women — and a consensual experience that many women would attest to.
Q And did you gather materials that would assist you in making and putting forth that position?
A I did, yes.
Q What did you do?
A I asked all of the first line DOS masters for examples that showed consent and positivity about positive experiences about DOS.
Q Did that include photos where DOS slaves appeared to look happy?
Q You’ve discussed the requirements of the photographs in the context of DOS; do you have a view on photographs where DOS slaves appeared happy now?
A Yes, well, some of the photographs that I included in this compilation were photographs that I had instructed them to retake specifically to look happy and it wasn’t — I mean it wasn’t a thorough representation, a full representation of like the positives and the negatives, it was just cherry-picking the positive, the things that looked positive. There were also I mean within my group concerns that were negative and allegations of extortion going on before, before this happened and during this time, so they were left out.
Q Who else was involved in these efforts with you?
A All of the first line DOS and Keith.
Q At some point in August of 2017 did the defendant address the NXIVM community?
A He did, yes.
Q When was that?
A He addressed the leadership at V Week [August 2017 – before the NY Times story came out and when only Frank Report was reporting on DOS] so proctors and above, and he also wrote a statement on the website.
Q And V Week is the abbreviation for Vanguard Week?
A Vanguard Week, yes.
Q Which is a celebration of his birthday?
Q What did the defendant say?
A He said he wasn’t affiliated with DOS, that he had very little knowledge about it but he advocated for the group and he said some of the things in the group were a little racy and could be seen as, you know, alternative but that, ultimately, he thought they were good and essential.
Q Was that true?
A No. No, he created DOS and was very involved in all the aspects of it and I think what was going on in the group was more than just a little racy or alternative.
Q Was there —
A Or he said ‘edgy,’ edgy was the word he used.
Q Was there a coach summit that took place shortly after?
Q What was the subject of that coach summit?
A The entire coach summit focused on basically the difference between using the media versus the legal system to address disputes and laid out that our adversaries [Sarah Edmondson and Mark VIcente] basically were using the media [Frank Report was the only publication writing about DOS, Nxivm or Raniere at the time] which was vigilante justice and this was not considered to be honorable or ethical and that we thought that the more honorable or ethical means would be to use the legal system and that we believed in the justice system of this country and so that was what we were going to do.
[I wonder what Raniere thinks about the “justice system in this country now.]
Q What do you think of that coach summit now?
A Well, I think generally when there were valid concerns being raised in the organization at different times throughout the organization there was always curriculum that was released about that specifically helped reframe your perspective about how to look at it and who to look at as the good guys and the bad guys, you know, so to speak and who was being honorable and who was being noble and so everybody who wanted to believe this was good was given a lot of information about how specifically to view it as good and why it was good but there were very real and very valid allegations being made about things that were true and we were lying about them so, you know…
[At this point in her testimony, the court day had ended and the judge adjourned until the following day. The following morning, Lauren returned to the witness stand.]
Q Ms. Salzman, you testified yesterday that there were videos made of the branding ceremonies for your DOS slaves; is that correct?
A Yes, that’s correct.
Q And after DOS was publicly exposed, did you participate in discussions about releasing any of these videos?
A Yes, we did. I did.
Q Can you explain that further?
A Yes. We discussed among first-line DOS masters and Keith the idea of possibly releasing the branding video or showing it to — Keith was debating whether we should show it to possibly reporters or release it publicly to discredit from the allegations that were being made concerning what took place during the branding ceremony.
[Sarah had described it as a brutal, surprise and semi-coercive session where she had been lied to – she had been told it was going to be a tattoo.]
Q Were there discussions about editing the video?
Q Can you explain those?
A Yes. We edited out the — Keith said that he was considering whether we should show it to the media reporters or release it publicly. And I asked, “What about, like, all of it, all the dialogue back and forth?” And he said, “Well, that part could be edited out” and the — it could be blurred. The nudity parts of it could be blurred, and so he instructed us to do that. And in the fall of 2017, so like around September, Nicki [Clyne] and I did that. We edited out the dialogue portions of the branding ceremony from Sarah’s branding video specifically.
Those were — that dialogue that was edited out were the things that we discussed …. in the [DOS hand]book plus other concepts, but things like that “I’m committing my labor, my material possessions, my body for unconditional use to my master and that that’s my highest priority.”
Q Those pieces of dialogue were removed from the tape?
Q Was one part of the dialogue kept in?
A Yes. The part that said, “Master, please brand me. It would be an honor, an honor I want to wear for the rest of my life,” which each DOS slave was instructed to say at the start of each ceremony.
Q And you testified, Ms. Salzman, that during your branding ceremony your arms were held over your head?
A Yes, they were.
Q Was that something that was done with your DOS slaves as well?
A Yes. I duplicated what was done with me.
Q When this was discussed with the defendant [Raniere] and the first-line DOS masters, were there concerns about showing the video to press and others?
A Yes, there were several concerns. We thought that them seeing it might [make] things worse. It looked weird. Also some people said it looked sexual in nature because everybody was naked and holding each other down. And so we thought it might make things worse, not better. Also even though it showed laughing and joking, it still looked like what it was. It looked — I mean, the branding ceremony is not a pretty process, and I don’t think it’s — it’s a very mainstream or common process. So I think it was viewed that it would look badly if people saw it, even if it showed inconsistencies.
Q At some point did you assist in creating a transcript of the video?
A Yes, I did. Keith discussed several options that we could possibly show it to a reporter who could report on it. We could release it publicly so the public could see it. We could play the audio of it so it could be heard or there could be a transcript. And so I was instructed to just transcribe it and have all of these options ready. And so I did so taking out the same parts that we edited out of the video and leaving in the part about, “Master, please brand me. It would be an honor that I want to wear for the rest of my life.”
Q And why was a transcript considered as opposed to the actual video?
A Because the transcript was more neutral and they wouldn’t see the part that looked scary or odd.
Q Are you aware if other branding ceremonies were videotaped, the ones of DOS slaves that were not yours?
A I believe they were — all were. That was part of the protocol.
Q Do you know where those videos are now?
A I don’t. I assume they’re either with the top of the DOS masters or with Rosa Laura [Junco], who held all the collateral, as mine were with me, which is why I said that.
Q Around this time, did the defendant draft a position statement as to DOS?
A Yes, he did.
[On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, Raniere wrote an email to the eight front line slaves. This was just days after the New York Times story on DOS was published. He wrote in part, the Times’ article was “shaming … these women…. a primitive, covertly misogynistic strike against the rights of women and women generally.
“If women choose to brand, pierce, mark, tattoo or otherwise physically adorn themselves for any reason, they should be allowed to do so without shame or scorn…..
“This campaign is not only a campaign against the rights of women and alternative lifestyles, it is a campaign against freedom itself….
“The women of the sorority chose to mark themselves as a stand of solidarity and a symbol to each other of mutual commitment. Should that be punished or scorned?….
“[T]his group has nothing at all to do with NXIVM …. many of the individuals involved have never been associated with … Keith Raniere,… at all…. To be clear, this sorority [DOS] is autonomous, separate and distinct from NXIVM, Keith Raniere and associates.
“NXIVM, Keith Raniere and associates, although having little knowledge or authority in the issue, applaud the courage of these women … and stand in solidarity with them in their right to freedom. The few women who undergo the rigorous consensual screening and invitation process making multiple promises and assertions in several stages, taking a life vow of secrecy and pledging like the founders of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “their lives’ fortunes and their sacred honor,” to be a member of this group….. Any story based on the few liars [Sarah] who seek to shame their sisters because of their own dishonor is regretful. Imagine if our forefathers had done the same the moment times got difficult.”
Q What’s your view of [Keith’s email] position statement now?
A I think the position statement is a misdirection of what actually is going on. The New York Times article was not an attack on alternative lifestyles. It was asserting that the women have been coerced to do something against their will. And it wasn’t even an attack on branding as a practice, it was an attack on the circumstances under which the women became branded within this organization and the nonconsensual nature of that given the collateral that established their lifetime view of obedience to obey everything that we said, including getting branded. And in addition, so making it this campaign against freedom, we can all go, ‘Oh, yeah, like let’s fight for our freedom to express ourselves’ … and lose sight of what actually was going on, which is their very valid concerns and allegations to be made and the statements about Keith’s involvement are not true.
Q Do you have an understanding as to why the defendant sent this email to you and the other first-line DOS masters?
A Like he wanted us to write position statements as well and instructed us to do that. But I think it was setting the precedence for how those position statements should go and what those position statements should convey, which is that he is separate, distinct, and aside from anything in the sorority and had little knowledge of anything going on there, even though he created the whole thing and had very intimate knowledge and involvement in what was going on there.
And in the position statement that we were instructed to write, I brought my position statement over to his house and he specifically edited it and added things to make it clearer that he had nothing to do with it.
Q The statement, ‘The few women who undergo the rigorous consensual screening and invitation process,’ what did you understand that to be referring to?
A The process of – enrollment process basically where they are told that we have something to tell them, that they need to give collateral to keep it a secret, and that once they give the collateral, they’re told four things about it. And then if they decide to join, that they then give more collateral. That all of that is a type of rigorous and consensual participation between people.
Q Do you agree with the characterization of this process as in the position statement?
A No, I don’t.
Q Can explain that?
A Because once you have collateral over somebody’s head, then the way they interact with the situation is entirely different. As well, we all were put in positions where the people who invited us into the sorority were people that we trusted, people that we looked to and looked up to, to lead us in ethical decision-making and in our growth and in a situation where somebody’s saying this is — this is what you need to do to grow. If you’re really committed to growth, you would do this, you know. And the really committed people do this, and the people who are making the evaluation of who the really committed people are, are the people who are in the leadership roles to evaluate whether you’re really committed or whether you’re really growing. They’re the people who put you up for promotions in the organizations that you’re working in, and they’re the people who either respect you or don’t respect you, who take you seriously or don’t take you seriously within your community. There was incredible pressure to make this choice. Even after the initial collateral was given and then more collateral was given after we already had the collateral, the first collateral. And once they agreed to a vow of obedience without knowing what they’re going to have to obey, asking for more collateral, continuing to ask for more collateral, is something they feel they have to obey their collateral is subject to be released. So that is not consensual in the way that it appears, as it’s being represented to be.
Q At the time the defendant wrote this email to you, was he aware that DOS slaves had been recruited into DOS not knowing that he was their grandmaster?
A He instructed it. Of course, he knew. And when asked to tell them that he was their grandmaster we were told no, by him.
In short, DOS was exposed. Keith lied and said he had nothing to do with DOS. Lauren and the other first-line slaves backed him up. But it didn’t work.
And Lauren went down in flames. She and Allison among the pack of first-line liars were the only ones charged. Maybe that is fair or maybe that is true injustice.
Maybe they all should have been charged – all eight – for they all participated in this trickery, this fraud and its cover-up.