The following is by a former Nxivm member. The individual, who asked to remain anonymous, knew many of the members, including those who got arrested.
By a Nxivm Survivor
If you have been following the NIXVM nightmare on television and the news, I’d like you to meet the board of ESP, NXIVM. And I invite you to share this with other viewers.
There are probably only three of them familiar to you: Lauren Salzman, who testified at the trial and was Sarah Edmondson’s coach and master in DOS; Clare Bronfman, the Seagram’s Heiress and litigious bulldog for Keith using her millions to sue ESP defectors into bankruptcy; and Mark Vicente, who has been a central subject of HBO’s The Vow.
I’ve been horrified that since Starz’s Seduced started airing that a lot of hate and judgment has fallen on Mark for some reason. One person on Twitter ranked Mark as third on their list of top NXIVM abusers. This, I believe, comes down to two central reasons: He is the only member of the executive board who left ESP, and then agreed to dump his guts on the table as he and others fought for their lives, fought to save others while on camera for an HBO series; and he was closest to India as they were both members of the small, insular, Los Angeles centre.
So; Mark gets a lot of screen time. Which seems to have Twitter and reviewers having a lot of opinions about his abuser status and whether he deserves compassion or should be forgiven for his “crimes.”
But here is where we need to focus on reality: Mark was not indicted for any crimes or listed as a co-conspirator.
If you really want to know the truth, read the court transcripts. To my knowledge, only one member of that executive board was a member of DOS and that was Lauren Salzman. Only two were charged and convicted of crimes, and those were Lauren Salzman and Clare Bronfman.
Lauren enrolled Sarah Edmondson in DOS and was also her coach in ESP. She was someone I considered a friend and, frankly, someone I admired. But she was a high-level DOS master and the head of education on the board of NXIVM and was charged and convicted of crimes.
Lauren is not interviewed in The Vow for various reasons and barely appears in Seduced. As several episodes of The Vow illustrated, Clare Bronfman funded and drove litigious campaigns against NXIVM defectors and critics that destroyed lives. For decades. And at her sentencing, Clare defended Keith Raniere. But somehow Mark is outranking Lauren and Clare on the public’s list of top ten NXIVM abusers.
Please remember that Bonnie, once she left, and then Mark, once he followed, were afraid for their lives. All counsel was that they should stay quiet and disappear lest they get sued into oblivion by ESP/NXIVM (Clare Bronfman) the way other defectors had in the past.
But they did not. They were the first people to knock on all the doors of law enforcement agencies as early as May 2017. They decided to risk it all to save the women from DOS. Perhaps most important of all, Bonnie and Mark and a few others were the reason India Oxenberg’s own DOS slaves escaped branding.
This is the terrible game survivors wrestle with, and the public seems to engage in: Who was an abuser and who was a victim? I’ve heard people suggest that anyone who made money off ESP is an abuser. That probably accounts for 1/3 of the organization. Though I am not convinced anyone made much money. Others have suggested anyone who was on the coach path is an abuser. That was almost everyone.
Cults are psychologically like abusive relationships, but not systemically: ESP was a parasite that ruled its hosts with one awful lie: that each person had a “life issue,” that we were flawed, and the only way we could overcome that shameful flaw was to take more courses and get more EMs. That guiding lie was something you were indoctrinated into before you even became a coach. But once you were a coach, you moved up the stripe path the more you embraced that lie.
What this means, more generally, is that everyone was to some extent both abuser and victim. Except for Keith. Keith was only, ever, an abuser.
I hope that Mark and the others who have poured their hearts and pain and suffering out for the documentary cameras know, and I need the casual viewers to know, how by sharing they have given us survivors a chance to heal, a chance to see our stories through them, not the TMZ salacious “entertainment” commodification of our trauma.
How through the episodes over the nine weeks we survivors have messaged one another, processing, remembering where there was goodness between each other, sorting through the wreckage, understanding the guilt and pain instead of being alone in shame. I hope Mark and the others know that.
So I ask you first not to play the game of public prosecution and jury. These are not reality show people. They are trauma victims. And remember you have only heard from one member of the executive board. And he helped save women and bring down NXIVM. His grief and sadness, his apologies on-screen (for not believing the defectors and for not seeing the poisoned path we were all on) are not signs of guilt or evidence he is an abuser more than any of us who were on the coach/stripe path in ESP/NXIVM. It might look like it can let people like me or India off the hook, but it does not. We were all abusers. And victims.
Save your anger and judgment for the monster who masterminded this poisonous destruction of so many. And maybe for his true believers still doing his work. For the hundreds of people who did pretty awful things who scuttled under rocks. For the fifty-odd people, the “true believers” still following and supporting the lizard king, and the five very public people and the DOSsier women trying to distract you from the crimes, trying to get you to not believe the victims. They deserve it.