Reporter Paul Heintz for Seven Days, a Vermont news site, has written an interesting story about Damon Brink, a former leader of the Society of Protectors.
The story is entitled, ‘Maybe I’m Brainwashed’: How the NXIVM Cult Followed Damon Brink to Vermont
Damon Brink used to live in Albany New York and was a full-time worker for Nxivm.
Now he lives in Morrisville Vermont.
Brink is an. example of what the ‘Scarlet N’ – the odium of being once a member of Nxivm – can do to a person even after he or she leaves Nxivm.
Heintz wrote, “Though Brink, 50, maintains he was unaware of NXIVM’s darkest secrets, suspicion and scorn have followed him back to Vermont, where he was once known as a standout first baseman for the University of Vermont Catamounts, co-owner of the Burlington nightclub Nectar’s, and candidate for the state House of Representatives.
“According to Brink, he remains estranged from friends and family members he once sought to recruit. He has been denied rental housing due to his association with the group and has received threatening messages from neighbors. One note called him ‘pathetic’ and ‘a despicable human being.’ The writer added, ‘Don’t worry. We’re already making sure the entire town knows who you are. No one will want you around their children.’
“Last week, it appears, NXIVM also cost Brink his job.
“‘I feel vulnerable. I feel scared. I feel sad,’ he said. ‘Sometimes I feel angry.’
“Since leaving the Albany area with his family in 2018, Brink has sought to establish himself as a mentor and coach in north-central Vermont. He serves as president of Stowe Youth Baseball and Lamoille County Little League. He founded an indoor batting cage center called Go Baseball and is a DJ for Top Hat Entertainment. In August 2019, he was hired to run an afterschool program at Everyone Equals Morristown Community Center or E=MC2. There, he helped secure a contract with the state Department for Children and Families to host supervised visits between non-custodial parents and their children.
“Earlier this month, however, a community member brought Brink’s past to the department’s attention. ‘We became aware of a connection between Mr. Brink and NXIVM,’ said DCF general counsel Jennifer Myka.
Damon lost his job with the non-profit. The department gave notice it was canceling the $8,200 contract.
For his story, Heintz interviewed this writer.
He wrote , “Frank Parlato, a former NXIVM employee who became one of its chief critics, has mercilessly mocked Brink as a dupe on his blog, the Frank Report, which has for years documented the organization’s alleged misdeeds. But even Parlato argues that Brink’s association with NXIVM should not cost him his career.
“‘I do not think Damon Brink is a threat to any children whatsoever. Just the opposite. I think he’s probably a good kind of role model for kids,’ Parlato said in an interview. ‘He might be brainwashed about Keith. He might be blind to Keith’s scenario. But he’s no threat to children.’
“Brink says he understands his neighbors’ fear and trepidation, given the way NXIVM has been portrayed in the media…
“‘What’s happened is that DOS has become the story, and so everybody that’s associated with ESP or NXIVM is now associated with what everybody thinks that is, which is this crazy sex cult/branding/awful thing,’ Brink said. ‘I didn’t know about DOS until after. Nobody did … But I don’t know how the genie goes back into the bottle.’
Heintz spoke with Damon’s wife, Sally, who also was a member of NXIVM.
She said, “People are trying to destroy my husband. They don’t want to know what’s right or wrong. People just want to punish and hate.”
“Sally severed ties with NXIVM years before her husband did. And… played a leading role in bringing down the organization…
“‘I gave [The FBI] 30 gigs’ worth of information on possible money laundering, possible visa fraud, racketeering,’ she said.
This writer can confirm this is true since I was on the scene when in 2017, she was gathering material and Mark Vicente and I were analyzing it. I put the most pertinent info into a dossier I created to give to Catherine Oxenberg to bring to law enforcement.
Sally also interviewed with the FBI and US Attorney’s office.
Meantime, Damon remained loyal to Raniere.
Until recently, Damon “continued to meet weekly with … the Society of Protectors…
“‘I basically told those guys in the last couple weeks that I wasn’t going to be doing that anymore,’ he said.
Though Brink is not meeting with SOP, he still supports Raniere.
“During more than five hours of interviews, he toggled between defending, condemning, embracing and distancing himself from Raniere and the organization he founded. Brink sounded like a man who was still trying to figure it out.
“Parlato, who has chronicled Damon Brink’s and Sally Brink’s respective journeys, finds their marriage confusing and compelling. ‘You got an odd couple there, right?’ he said…
“I’m taking a great risk to my reputation and even my safety because of the mob-like mentality and I’m concerned about this,” he wrote in an October 15 email to the newspaper. “But the bottom line is there has been an incredible injustice in [Raniere’s] trial. It’s not that he’s innocent but he’s been denied, on many levels, the chance at a fair trial and we have evidence of this, dramatic evidence.”
Brink also defended Raniere in a sentencing letter to Judge Nicholas Garaufis.
Sally Brink, on the other hand, condemned Raniere at Clare Bronfman’s sentencing hearing in September.
“Damon Brink says he remained in touch with Raniere until mid-October.
“‘He did ask for help,’ Brink said. ‘But he didn’t ask me to do anything specifically.’
As for Camila, the woman who said Raniere started having sex with her when she was 15, Brink, who considers himself a family friend, said he had no suspicions about her being abused and said it was “hard to reconcile” Camila’s story with Raniere’s “gentleness.”
“I don’t know if I’m willing to go and say that I believe without a doubt in my heart that he’s a sexual predator,” Brink said.
Brink also described his impressions of Nxivm during his first intensive.
“I walk in, and it was weird,” he said.
“But by day two, Brink was sold. His “exploration of meaning” sessions helped him reconsider childhood experiences that had impaired his relationship with his father.
“I had this very uplifting internal experience and feeling of love for my dad and for myself,” he said. “It was very powerful. I cried, and I felt light and different and more joyful about everything.”
In 2009, the Brinks moved to the Albany area to place their children in Rainbow Cultural Garden. The Brinks took about $200,000 worth of NXIVM’s courses and became full-time Nxivm community members.
“There was always something going on,” Brink said. “Your day was spent bouncing from thing to thing — unless you were taking classes, in which case everything stopped.”
The Brinks lived on Bronfman’s horse farm. Brink was the caretaker.
He met Raniere during “Vanguard Week.
“There was this kind of aura around him,” Brink said.
Raniere eventually asked Brink and three others [Mark Vicente, Jim Del Negro, Anthony Ames] to co-found the Society of Protectors (SOP), a men’s group.
“After 30 days of late-night meetings with Raniere, SOP launched in late 2012 with a weekend gathering of more than 100 men.
“The idea was that it was to become a movement,” Brink recalled.
“‘For those of you that don’t know, our founder, Keith Raniere, has built more than 1,000 millionaires in his life,’ Brink said in a promotional video unearthed by Parlato. ‘He has built multimillion-dollar businesses in a short amount of time and at one point was making more than $100,000 per hour coaching the highest-level business executives in the world.’
“None of that, it turned out, was true.”
Sally Brink did not see Raniere building any millionaires.
“I started seeing things from a business owner perspective that just didn’t make sense to me,” she said, adding that at one point, she had $80,000 in cash in an office drawer. “And any time I questioned anything, I got, ‘Well, Keith is the most ethical person in the entire world.'”
Sally added, “It’s really hard to explain the kind of mind-fuck that you go through in these types of organizations, but I was really mind-fucked with.” She added, “When I left ESP, I said, ‘Oh, my god. I get why battered women stay.'”
About Raniere she said, “When you get a creepy, strange feeling about men, you just stay away. And I knew at that point I could never be alone with him ever in my life.”
In 2016, Sally decided to leave and took her husband and their child with her.
“Within months, she was diagnosed with Stage III and then Stage IV breast cancer. By then, the family’s finances had been depleted. Sally estimates that she had spent close to $200,000 on NXIVM coursework and lost out on hundreds of thousands more in unpaid work. (In January, Sally was one of 80 plaintiffs who sued NXIVM and its leaders, calling the group “both a Ponzi scheme and a coercive community,” though she later withdrew from the suit.)
Since returning to Vermont, the Brinks have been trying to rebuild their lives.
Damon Brink said. “There’s this tremendous reach and power of this narrative of this evil thing that I was a part of and I support … In a sense, it’s not true. In a sense, it is true.”
Brink says, “I think it’s reasonable to ask questions and try to figure that out. I guess what I think part of the story also is, is how we handle things that we don’t understand or that we disagree with.”
Brink concedes that he had read about Consumers’ Buyline, a pyramid scheme that was shut down in 1993.
Forbes featured Raniere in a 2003 cover story that depicted him as a cult leader. A 2012 series by Albany’s Times Union newspaper described him as a sex addict who had preyed upon underage girls.
Brinks said they were taught by Raniere to distrust the news media.
Asked if he is brainwashed, Brink said, “I mean, yeah. It’s possible. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and it’s a rabbit hole… There’s an argument to be made that that’s what we do to each other. We brainwash each other and create our own realities. That’s what society does, and that’s what culture does.”
I am Damon Brink’s cousin. He was sexually inappropriate with me when I was around 7. Growing up, he was an extremely angry and controlling child…when adults weren’t around.
He had to be the boss and the bully. His Dad was his idol.
It was observed by outside family members that he had further inappropriate relations with his much younger stepsister.
Our family carries dark histories.
Generations of violence, suicides, and vicious mothers.
His aunt and uncle were criminally abusive to their children after learning physical and emotional abuse from their mom.
His father was abused the least by their mother, but still raised his kids with an iron hand all in the name of sportsmanship and masculinity. Damon’s first cult.
Damon is so obtusely blind to Raniere’s evil because he was born into a family with similar M.O.’s: Do everything to appear saintly to the public and be unspeakably evil and sociopathic behind closed doors…including cult involvement.
Don’t believe this hype; that Seven Days article was a favor between friends…because they still bought his saintly attributes listed so thoroughly here.
I asked for acknowledgement of his trespass and an apology for decades. Never got one.
I can confidently say it was about time he felt shunned and shamed.
Who else has he intimidated behind closed doors? What is it about himself he sees in Raniere?
And why is that more important to protect than his long-suffering wife?
Why would anyone trust him based on these simple facts?
SOP all the way for this guy.
Damon Brink is an amazing guy. He hasn’t harmed or hurt anyone. See the good before being so sure of a character.
It looks to me like Damon is basing his decisions on the information he has. He is a good man. He is great with children. It is sad to see him wrongly vilified. I hope he and his family can make it through this well.
Cause and consequence, each one has to bear his own action. When Raniere committed pitiful attitudes harming people who left the cult or who were against this cult, Damon supported and even today he is undecided. What reflects on him is only the reaction of his own actions, that is, life happening!
[…] in response to my recent report on Damon Brink, Shivani offers her […]
I am a big Phish fan and was struck by the fact that Mr. Brink owned Nectars, where the band got their start. I have to believe that in his heart of hearts, Mr. Brink understands that Keith Raniere violated some of the most important hippie ideals, such as “be kind” and show respect for the basic dignity of others.
I hope the community structures can be passed onto a person the community feels comfortable with, and is competent enough, to keep facilities running. Although I’m sorry for Mr. Brink, I hope he can see that he helped serve his community by getting these projects off the ground, whether or not he’s currently in charge. I suspect there are many stories like this, from members on the stripe path who were not aware of DOS. They were all manipulated by Keith and Nancy’s teachings which will take many years to work out, while experiencing social shunning. It is clear Mr. Brink is still mentally trying to make sense of the irreconcilable, which is an emotional process more than it is a logical process – confounded by KR’s emotional manipulation in the name of logic, I hope he is speaking to a counselor.
However, I would not feel comfortable attending, or having my children attend, any community activity led by a person who does not fully denounce KR, and who has not sufficiently been able to make sense of what they learned, the good and the bad, with identification and separation of these concepts so as to not un/consciously employ them upon others attending their community function. I would not feel comfortable sending my children or myself to a function led by a person who does not affirm that KR is a child predator. Additionally, after reading more into what occurred during SOP, I would prefer to stay away from anyone who professed those teachings for so long.
While I understand leaving Albany and transferring that lingering NXIVM-manic-world-changing-energy to launch community programs, it’s just not appropriate at all.
What I’ve noticed is that there are personalities who tend to fall into the trap of inappropriate ideologies. Maybe they overthink everything or they’re too introverted, which is fine in itself, and it can even produce extremely high results. But if it falls into the wrong hands, a distorted mindset can develop.
Best of luck to Mr. Brink and his family.
I feel badly for this family. It’s like they got the short-end of the stick in pretty much every way possible. It seems to me that making life choices (like moving to Albany and joining NXIVM) that you later regret should be enough to bear without neighbors and employers punishing you for it ad infinitum…
Here’s Sally’s cancer treatment gofundme. Notice that billionaire Emiliano Salina cared so much to help that he donated all of $500, great guy that he is!
Clare and Sara do not appear on the list, nor does Rosa Laura, also a billionaire. Is it possible they donated offline? yes, but most likely they just did nothing. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Emiliano’s magnificent gesture of $500 probably told Sally quite a bit.
It sounds as though Damon Brink is going through his own processing and is and will continue to be willing to examine his beliefs and thoughts and to ride out his changes his way, the best he can. Don’t shut him down as he does his work upon his own perceptions. That is the opposite of being helpful. What is it? Twisted swords, unawares? Twisted swords brandished by the Faultless? How original. Ker-plunk. Which is it? Violins or barfbags? People are still funny, huh.
Nevertheless, the Brink fellow is in the process of getting a perhaps more realistic grip on himself and is facing the lies and deceptions which he used to find not only true but sacrosanct. These are stages of adapting one’s perspective, perceptions. It isn’t necessarily going to be easy. This is for Damon to find his way. Why divide him further away from being someone who is looking hard at himself? He does not need rejection. Nobody does. Give what you wish would be given to you. Maybe say, “welcome back” and yes, somewhat cautiously. Be part of the cure rather than fomenting about the dis-ease.
Give him a chance to breathe. You would want and need the same, if in his shoes. He has not been expelled from being human. Nobody here on earth has that right, to expel him. Examine the self and its motivations instead, and take as long as it takes to examine the basis of one’s own thoughts and/or judgments.
Some get off on feeling false superiority by cutting off the heads of others, dreaming that this coldheartedness makes them look taller, stronger and more nauseatingly “noble.” Dance on. That is a misstep, from what I can see so far. This talkative, small bitch (my “I”) is still better off as a lovebug, and one ready to learn. A swallowtail’s metamorphosis can be destroyed by a few stupid, impatient slaps. Or by just one big snappy mouth, harm can be done and continued, so hypocritically.
Damon and his family would be welcome at our house and with no shame. Welcomed. Let him be. For the love of God. He isn’t still talking out of his rear end like poor old Clare Bronfman blabbing about Raniere’s wonderfulness and all of the advancement that the chubby perv-boy wanted to donate to the rest of us. Trust that Damon Brink is undergoing his own sincere self-examination. He is, and he has been trying so hard. Who can miss this?
Maybe bless his heart. Stop freaking and bellowing at a man who is already at least halfway out of the pits of his own hell. Why not?
I wish him the best. What if he were your prodigal son? Chances are you’d be reluctant to reject him as he works on himself.
Damon is living closeby to where I went to college, and Vernont’s nature alone can be so incredibly, magically healing and inspiring. Not joking! There is nothing like the outdoors for getting back in touch with one’s essence, for mending all worldly frailties. I have a feeling Damon is going to mend and that he still has a lot to give. My bet is on him succeeding, especially with Sally by his side. Wow! That isn’t just optimism. Sincerely, bless their hearts and bless them and their children. Damon? He is gonna do this. Yes. He is doing it now. Peace is returning and Damon Brink can be the wiser for it, for the rest of his days.
‘scuse me, Vermont. Some of us ancestral Vermont Yankees still dunno how to type well, having been so well-borne by pen & ink. Where are the talk, dark and handsome male secretaries?
Hail! Green mountain. I love you so much. Maybe too much. How are those huge UFOs these days, these nights? Are they still looking around?
They came. They saw. They didn’t conquer? They never saw Vermonters before?
I doubt he knew much or anything about the sex stuff and on the whole men seem less damaged by KR than women as KR was deceiving and having sexual relations with lots of the women.
Could he not seek jobs that are nothing to do with coaching the young and do a job which is nothing to do with that? Also, I am surprised people withdraw tenancies in the US. In the UK, as long as you have a stable job, I doubt anyone would withdraw from a formal contract to lease a place just because you had been a member of a cult or men’s group (or even the Masons – the traditional UK/US weirdo men’s thing)
First of all it would behoove Mr. and Mrs. Brink to tell (and/or Frank to find out) which Nxivm creep exactly told her the most ethical thing to do is die rather than take go fund me money.
People like this use language as a weapon to manipulate, period. Who decides what is most ethical? How can people get involved in something thinking its ethics and then constantly move the ball on what ethics is? It’s a lie and a shield, to get everyone else to follow the rules, so that the higher ups, the terrible baby geniuses, can break those rules.
They have no place in this world to claim higher ground on ethics. They are trying to claim that the court system is hypocritical, but it is only their own hypocritical bullcrap that they must swallow.
Frank, this is what I’d like to hear, you asking them, specifically Keith, why did you uphold rules that everyone must follow and only you must break? His only answer could be well he’s the King Guru and he is above all of these puny rules but everyone else must follow them because it lifts him up so he can look down and take advantage of them.
To paraphrase the murderous gunslinger Doc Holliday: Keith’s Hypocrisy knows no bounds. He has zero integrity and zero accountability, just another con man and a grifter who uses words as tools to trigger and trap.
Sally Brink said that Nancy Salzman told her that she should die because she had breast cancer. If Nancy actually said this, it is ironic since Nancy herself contracted breast cancer.
I find it interesting that this reporter did not name Nancy Salzman and refers to her only as “another member” (who told Sally to die nobly instead of spending a cent on treatment) when Nancy is NXIVM’s OWNER and 20-year resident hypnotist who influenced many a self-destructive and criminal act since it’s inception.
Sally has told me that Nancy Salzman DID NOT tell her not to go for the crowdfunding. I intend to make a clarification.
Ironic? More like stupid.
As long as he is still defending NXIVM and Raniere, he deserves whatever he gets.
It sounds like he only left SOP because his history has caught up with him.
He’s lucky his wife is still him considering the stupidity that he is propagating.
My primary question is whether he had any involvement in Rainbow Cultural Gardens.
It’s sad that with the social media of today, a good person can be taken down without any chance of a defense.
It’s interesting to see that we still believe in scarlet letters and burning witches at the stake. It would seem because of our technology and our evolved language those things are in the past, but they’re not. How sad.
None of this is new behavior. People have always been shunned, lost jobs, relationships, scholarships, been criticized, etc., due to their past and/or continuing association with a disgraced and dishonorable character.
It is hard for you to accept that you followed the “smartest, most ethical” man in human history down a primrose path of debauchery, fraud and deception.
The vast majority of us other supposedly lesser, unenlightened humans saw through “Vanguard’s” silly, risible show the first time we read of it.
Incapable of any logical argument, you fall back on hyperbolic cliches about witch hunts.
That strikes me as particularly describing the type of behavior NXIVM themselves, and Raniere in particular, engaged in when they labeled people ‘suppressives’ and then harassed some to the ends of the earth.
In Scientology — from which Raniere took ideas like the labeling and ruthless harassment of ‘suppressives’ — there is also a concept referred to as ‘pulling it in,’ in which one is responsible (another term Raniere liked) for bad things that happen them, in a sort of short-term karma. Did NXIVM have a similar ideology?
It looks like Damon is standing for civics and due process. His statement about maybe being brainwashed is tongue in cheek, trying to help people see that most people have unexamined beliefs, which may be considered to be a type of brainwashing. Great qualities for anyone in charge of children. This idea that he is dangerous to children because of his association with Raniere is a good example of a trial without jury. The very problem it looks like he is trying to address. Tragic.
Wow, well said.
A trial without a jury is not necessary because there is no case at all. The sound judgment of anyone who does not want their own children to come into contact with that person is sufficient. It is part of common prudence to protect oneself and one’s own or another’s children from harm. There is no reason to wait until harm has occurred. And until Damian credibly distances himself from Keith Raniere, including his practices and teachings, he cannot be relied upon to adhere to generally accepted social and ethical standards, including the law. And those who, like him, cast doubt on Raniere’s conviction, even though he had been a member of this criminal organization for years, only fuel doubts about their own reliability. Even if there had been these procedural errors, in this case, it would be better for Damian to hold back and let others represent these objections.
I am sorry that Damon is being treated this way. Does not seem that he has done any harm to anyone.
If negative media coverage was a guarantee of an unfair trial and conviction, then OJ wouldn’t have been found not guilty. These people are grasping at straws when it comes to their assertion of injustice in the justice system, that the many measures the latter takes to guard against such a lack of due process or unfair influence are “leaky” or simply don’t work: e.g., jury selection, deliberation, containment, etc. While such claims may hold potency for low-class criminals, mainly due to the fact that they simply can’t afford as competent legal counsel, Raniere had access to the best lawyers that money could buy and he and his followers are still complaining about a lack of justice.
This man’s life shouldn’t be ruined and he is taking steps in the right direction by challenging his initial defense of Reniere but I really don’t think someone who has been so absorbed in something like SOP should really be in a trusted position with children and impressionable young adults. Who knows what bullshit teachings might dribble out of his mouth and sink into a young brain. It’s unfortunate he lost his job but it’s a risk not worth taking. Hopefully, he can turn things around now. He obviously has doubts which is a start.
You cannot separate the person of Keith Raniere on the one hand and the teachings he spread on the other. Both belong together. Whoever continues to remain in solidarity with Raniere, also remains in solidarity with what Raniere embodies and these are his teachings. Whoever does not recognize this will notice it at the latest by the reaction of the people and the society altogether, when they learn about it. This is the advice to those who want to commit social suicide: to consider beforehand what they want to stand up for.
Parlato, what are your qualifications for determining whether Brink is safe to be around kids?
About the same as his credentials to “brainsoil” someone.
My sole qualification is a significant one: my own brain.
Combined with a pretty good knowledge of him, his wife, his friends, how he interacted in the Nxivm community. His fundamental sense of standing up for what he believes is right even though it is unpopular. His willingness to keep it together with his wife, though widely divergent in their views of Nxivm – for the sake of their children. His reflections on Raniere.
Some of those guys in really spiffy uniforms thought they were doing the right thing packing other people onto trains for a one way trip to places like Buchenwald and Bergen Belsen. They probably got along well with their peers. Would be willing to bet some of them kissed their wives and tussled their kids hair before going off to make their world a purer place. Perhaps that’s a little extreme but otherwise decent individuals can convince themselves that some pretty horrendous shit is ok. Its hard for one to admit that just maybe they weren’t on the right side. I don’t know the man or your brain. It’s only my gut but waving around such a sole qualification smacks of hubris. That’s between you and Rhamnousia.
Rhamnousia would have to have a lot of hubris to think she could judge me. But, you’re right, those old-time goddesses sometimes got too big for their tunics.
Many people without qualifications are proving to be a direly workforce in their own profession. And some people who are not qualified to do so will find solutions to the problems. It can be refuted.
In other words, you have zero expertise, just as I thought. Leave it to the experts, Parlato. Just admit you did your part to destroy the man and you’re not sorry at all.
This is what happens when people don’t address issues head-on, whether it’s Brink and his NXIVM associates or the myriad of others who quit NXIVM and stayed silent.
People should be held accountable to their own actions and not to the actions of others, even if they know them closely. We should look closer before making any type of judgement.
That is what I think too.
Consequences aren’t equivalent to victimization. I’m sure they’re a new experience for many involved. Suffering for your own actions, long after many revelations of truth, is not the portrayal of victimhood you want it to be.
“ Heintz spoke with Damon’s wife Sally, who also was a member of NXIVM. She said, “People are trying to destroy my husband. They don’t want to know what’s right or wrong. People just want to punish and hate.”
There’s a group of people central to the story that OBVIOUSLY don’t know the difference between right and wrong. Those who were long term members of an abusive criminal enterprise, that centered on the sexual whims of its leader, have shown their lack of judgement on a grand scale. She, and many in NXIVM lack good ethical and moral judgement. Documented. End of.
No one should let him near a child, nor any of the SOP members. Someone should look into the children he’s had contact with, if he was a disciple of Keith Raniere.
I’m very sorry to hear that Damon Brink lost his job, based solely on association with NXIVM. To assume anyone is a bad person based on what they hear in the media is such a dangerous toxic thing. Prejudice is uncalled for. I know Damon and he is such a gentle, loving, grounded, conscientious person. I am so thankful for the ways he helped me work through some of the biggest challenges in my life.
I don’t have time to write an in-depth comment on this, but just want to say:
BLESS YOU, DAMON BRINK!
I wish I could give him a job.
He is brave enough to tell the truth, even when the truth is messy AF.