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.”