Narcissistic Sexual Predation: an article on Raniere’s Grooming of Victims

by Paul Serran

The International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation published, last June, a Special Issue: NXIVM & Scientology. This subject is most relevant for the Frank Report and its readers, so I have been writing reviews on articles and studies included in this issue, such as the comparison between NXIVM and Scientology by Professor Stephen Kent, and “Preventing Predatory Alienation by High-Control Groups”, by Professor Robin Boyle-Laisure.

Another study included in the IJCAM June issue is “Narcissistic Sexual Predation: Keith Raniere’s Grooming Strategies in NXIVM”, by Susan Raine, from the Department of Sociology, MacEwan University, Canada.

Professor Raine focuses on a particular facet of Raniere’s criminal behavior — the grooming of women for sexual exploitation and abuse, and “the extent to which he victimized many of his followers — especially those who were most dedicated to him.”

She examines the multiple grooming strategies that the ‘Vanguard’ embedded in the curriculum of ESP, Jness, the Society of Protectors (SOP), and the infamous DOS to disseminate his ideas.

Raine also sets out to explain how “[g]rooming women and establishing female submission were interconnected processes in NXIVM.”

Raniere used emotional and psychological manipulation tactics to groom his female followers.

Adult sexual grooming can be described as “any situation in which an adult is primed to permit themselves to be abused and/or exploited for sexual gratification of another” and it involves a good deal of “emotional and psychological manipulation tactics”.

Adults are usually more experienced, and have more connections, so the grooming of adults as a process “may be extensive and often unfolds over a series of stages during which the abusers will ‘mask their intentions’ and ‘prime their target for abuse'”.

It is also known that most adult groomers display characteristics typical of narcissistic or antisocial personality types, targeting the vulnerabilities of the adults that they groom.

Professor Raine notes that “the initial grooming stages typically are characterized by benefits and rewards for the victims”.

At Raniere’s trial, clinical psychologist Dawn Hughes, an expert on interpersonal violence, testified that “by the time negative experiences dominate such relationships, the victim is ‘psychologically compromised'”.

“Raniere groomed women who were already members of an ideological group setting that he had established”, Raine points out. “He was their leader and guide — and they admired and trusted him on all matters.”


One theme that merits Professor Raine’s attention is the sexual control that happens in cults. “Most cults are male-led and patriarchal”, she writes. “[W]ithin these settings, women often ‘are groomed to be subservient to men'”

Regulating sexuality is a potent form of social control, “because the cult leader may be able to manipulate individuals into breaching their previously held values and norms.”

Informed consent, in the context of a high-demand group, is next to impossible, usually resulting in “impaired” or “flawed” consent.

In the Raniere trial, Raine reminds us, psychologist Dawn Hughes testified that “women cannot give consent when they feel like they cannot say no. She stressed that when women believe that a refusal to participate in sexual activity will result in ‘negative consequences,’ then ‘that’s not consent’.”

Malignant narcissism is a common trait in cult leaders.

That Keith Raniere sold himself to be the smartest man in the world is a well-known fact for Frank Report readers. He spent years lying and crafting a ‘mystique’ around himself. “Raniere needed — indeed, demanded — attention and recognition”, the professor writes, adding that “Raniere’s propensity for self-promotion and self-aggrandizement […] are typical features of narcissism”.

His crazy, fake claims continued, never to be reconciled with his bad grades, and he described himself as a great philosopher, an ethical man, and a scientist.

“Many people believed him. He had established a level of ‘positive notoriety’ that appeals to others.”

Besides the aura, there was also the cult structure he built around him. “[H]is early inner circle of colleagues and sexual partners, Karen Unterreiner, Pam Cafritz, and Kristen Keefe, all revered him and were extraordinarily loyal to him”, Raine writes in the article. “By the time he and Nancy Salzman met and started offering ESP intensives, he had positioned himself as the Master of the ESP ranking system […]; and he taught his acolytes to recognize his superiority from their very first class.”

The V-Week celebrations also fit into the pattern: “The need for such displays of admiration is a common feature of narcissism”.

One dangerous aspect of this cult of personality is that Nxians “revered Raniere as a humanitarian life coach who would save the world. As such, they trusted his guidance and knowledge on all matters“. (Italics are mine.)

Narcissistic Sexual Predators, the article states, “have intense self-esteem requirements that they attempt to maintain or repair through predatory sexual practices and the fulfillment that this abuse provides them”.

Because of that, predators will display “fantasies and exaggerations [that] are sexualized” and eventually “the drive for recognition and dominance [can be] synthesized into sexually-oriented objectives”

Professor Raine highlights a horrible dimension of Raniere victimizing women more, the more they came close to him, because “although Raniere often groomed women into initial sexual relationships with him, in other cases he groomed women further, after initial sexual intimacy, […] for increasingly degrading and exploitative forms of sex”.

“Raniere had ensured that each of these women remained in relationships with him only”, the Professor writes, “they didn’t develop conflicting loyalties from having long-term intimate partners and children who would consume their time and also their physical and emotional energy.”

Calorie deprivation was another cornerstone of Raniere’s grooming process, as he “explicitly indicated his preference for thin women;  consequently, many of the women adopted highly restrictive diets and numerous food controls”, and as a result, he had “calorie-deficient women whom he could control and groom more easily”.

Another tool in the Vanguard’s arsenal for submitting women is the myth he spread in NXIVM that sexual experiences with him would be an honor, or “a special gift, a way of achieving further growth.”

“Raniere claimed that his semen had ‘mystical’ properties that caused women to see a ‘blue light’ after he ejaculated”, the Professor reminds us.

Many Nxians were groomed into submission.

The article recounts the saga of a young Mexican woman, Daniela, as “Raniere adeptly groomed her not only into sexual intimacy with him but also to believe that their sexual relationship was normal or typical. […] He convinced her that it was her “role” to perform oral sex on him daily.”

It was a modus operandi of establishing ‘female subservience’ with the objective of instilling ‘female submission’ in NXIVM.

Jness, Raine writes, “laid the foundations for female subservience in NXIVM. Members who enrolled were taught that women lack discipline and morals, and that women are needy, impulsive, spoiled, weak, and self-obsessed. […] the curriculum reproached women for being devoid of honor and loyalty.”

Also in the program was the notion that men need multiple female sexual partners and women needed to remain loyal to one man.

The curriculum in another course taught “that women like sex when men are angry. […] [A]n idea that he took further when he claimed that many women experience their first orgasm only when they are raped.”

Raniere “required that they recognize their inherent inferiority and submit to men — and, more specifically, to him.”


In Raniere’s predatory ways, the article argues, the ‘endgame’ was symbolized by the fire-branding, sexual-slavery of DOS. “By the time new DOS initiates uttered the words, ‘Master, please brand me'”, the Professor writes, “they had been groomed, manipulated, and coerced into accepting a wide array of distasteful and abusive situations.”

The multiplying effect of turning victims into perpetrators is also a subject for Raine. “Raniere established a hierarchy within DOS whereby members also became groomers”, she writes. “The following text message […] is revealing: ‘I think it would be good for you [DOS master] to own a fuck toy slave for me, that you could groom, and use as a tool, to pleasure me…'”.


Us readers of the Frank Report know all about how Raniere extorted ‘slave’ loyalty by procuring ‘collateral’ from his victims. “Raniere required explicit photographs of new recruits that incorporated both their vaginas and their faces as initial collateral prior to branding”, Professor Raine writes. “Once they were in DOS, banking information, additional explicit photographs, and filmed ‘confessions’ met the conditions of further collateral.”

These loyalty tests progressively deteriorated women’s self-esteem and sense of personal autonomy.

Raniere’s actions “represent his dual needs for domination and for being the center of attention. Clearly, he funneled these demands into the sexual abuse and manipulation of DOS women”.

Just call it love.

How do you coax someone into suffering under your abuse? Call it love: “[ESP course] Human Pain taught adherents of NXIVM to expressly choose pain so that they might foster the ability to love more profoundly, establishing ‘the foundation for someone to confuse pain with pleasure and vice versa’.”

“As a skilled manipulator and groomer”, Raine writes, “Raniere did what many in his position do: He took pleasure in skillfully causing pain to increase his sense of control”.

The abuse took place in an environment that was created by him. “Thus, he integrated practices of adoration, respect, and trust from the outset: He created conditions ripe for grooming and for achieving flawed consent.”


How can it be that many women still admired, respected, depended on, and loved Raniere? And that some still do? Professor Raine’s article explains that “[a]s their esteemed leader, teacher,  and mentor, he was responsible for their well-being and security. He had become central to their sense of selfhood and identity, their perceptions of self-worth and value, and their sense of purpose and meaning. He also blackmailed them with his collection of collateral.”

This ‘carrot and stick’ double approach “created a complex combination of contradictory experiences and emotions that likely left many women uncertain of their own decisions and judgments. Thus, for some, commitment and devotion to NXIVM and Raniere led not to empowerment, but instead to the very opposite.”

In closing her most interesting study, Professor Raine sees clearly that the NXIVM saga holds a power over the contemporary imagination that apparently won’t dissipate any time soon. “Certainly, it seems likely that much more will be written about Keith Raniere, the world’s self-proclaimed smartest man.”


About the author

Paul Serran


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  • There’s a journal of Coercion, Abuse and Manipulation”? And “interpersonal violence” what other kind of violence is there?

    People get degrees in all manner of garbage now.

  • This is interesting in terms of Nancy Salzman’s willful ignorance and her imnense amount of power within the group

  • Nicki Clyne Tweet

    Nicki Clyne
    Most people I meet who have been f*cked by the FBI are afraid to talk about it. This should tell you everything you need to know about whether we live in a free country.

    Nicki, In your opinion was Allison Mack f*cked by the FBI?

    • Follow-up question to Nicki:

      WTF life are you living now where you meet people who have been F-ed by the FBI regularly? I can count like 2 people in my life that had dealings with the FBI and one of them was employee (not an agent). It should be a huge red flag in your head that you are making some bad choices if meeting people even on a semi-regular basis that deal with the FBI on the negative end and you are not a lawyer that work fed cases.

    • Shadow-

      You have, on multiple occasions, derided the FBI! “The FBI our deep-state liberals.”

      Now the FBI, our the good guys, when it suits you. Care to explain? Probably not.

      • The answer lies in the cognitive and temporal dissonance or in the own more appropriate answer at the respective time. Points of view are relative to the respective question or facts.

        • It explains Shadow!


          Shadow lives in worlds that never existed…..In the television shows
          Wagon Train, Land of Giants, and F-Troop.

  • Susan Raine’s unconvincing thesis tells only half the story and tells that badly. Raniere may well have something called “malignant narcissism” but that doesn’t actually explain anything.

    Cults need two things: a leader, and followers. A scam artist, and damn fool followers. Both are essential: you can’t have a cult without followers.

    Susan Raine would have us believe that it’s all the scam artist’s doing.

    Which is nonsense. Particularly in the case of Nxivm.

    It was Nancy Salzman who designed much of the ESP/Nxivm “tech”. She was the psychobabble expert. It was Clare Bronfman who bankrolled the operation. Sarah Edmondson would become the star recruiter (as she herself weirdly boasts in her book).

    It was overwhelmingly women who actually ran Nxivm. And DOS. Look at Mack’s eager, proactive lieutenancy of DOS. She enthusiastically believed in it, its goals and its methods. The lying, the blackmail, the torture-branding. The subjugation of women.

    And don’t try to tell me Mack was “groomed” by Raniere. Check out the two of them in the pop-my-cherry volleyball video. If anything, it’s Raniere being played by Mack.

    Look at Sarah Edmondson, running her Vancouver center, making good money selling Nxivm. She wasn’t under Raniere’s thumb. He rarely left Knox Woods, eating pizza, watching Star Trek, playing volleyball.

    It was the women who ran Nxivm and DOS. They were the eager go-getters. They provided the money. And the brains.

    Odd, then, that Professor Susan Raine would blame The Patriarchy for the damage this cult did. Odd that she wants to blame it on “grooming”.

    Sarah Edmondson barely had any contact with Raniere. So how was she “groomed”?

    The idea may not have occurred to Professor Raine, but women are fully capable of doing bad things. Things like running scams that make them money and give them power over others.

    Sarah Edmondson’s book (inadvertently) shows her up as ambitious as hell, striving and conniving. She was obsessed with ascending the stripe path. And she wanted money. Money and success. And she seems to have little moral sense.

    Women can be blindly ambitious just like men. Money-grubbing and power-obsessed. Note well that a hell of a lot of money poured into the Nxivm coffers. Where did it all go? Not into Raniere’s pockets. Just look at how he lived. How he dressed. He didn’t even have a car.

    These women were a lot like Raniere. (Mack has been described as “cut from the same cloth”.) They craved power just like he did. Fact is, DOS had women eagerly being Masters over their Slaves.

    Professor Raine’s thesis is full of holes and runs contrary to the facts. It wasn’t all Raniere’s doing and it wasn’t Raniere’s “malignant narcissism” coupled with The Patriarchy that somehow created this monster.

    Women were the brains, the financier, and the entrepreneurs of Nxivm/DOS. Raniere was the sponge.

    Keith was one lucky guy, getting laid, gambling on the stock market, having women fight over his sperm. He didn’t even need to buy shirts. He was lucky, that is until that fateful day in Mexico.

    Professor Susan Raine may not believe it, but women can be as nasty, greedy, and power hungry as men. I think she gives her own sex too little credit.

    • Thanks for your perspective. It is intelligently written and fair. In the end, everyone is accountable for their own actions, man or woman.

    • One of your best posts Aristotle.

      It’s simply inaccurate to say that the “patriarchy” and/or the male sex can be blamed for this one. It was the women who were the primary enablers of Raniere and the victimizers of their fellow women. That is the irony of DOS “female empowerment”.

  • FR needs this kind of analytical, intensive, impartial reporting. The conjectures of Shadow State, Bangkok, Scott and Nice Guy and others are just subjective BS.

    • Paul is a talented writer and intellectual!

      I can only speak for myself, Nutjob, and Ice-nine; we are just middle-age cranks. We are not contributors to the Frank Report…We are simply commenters.
      I am not a writer!

      BTW: When Shadowstate is not obsessed with Allison Mack or the latest conspiracy theories, he provides some unique insights and valuable information.

      • Niceguy lies. He wrote that one amazing piece for FR. The one about getting busted by Mrs. Niceguy while typing under to covers at 2 AM. That was a contribution to FR that will go down as one of the best tangents we’ve ever been entertained by. Deserves a re-post, and maybe an update on Mrs. Niceguy’s thoughts about her husband’s FR hobby.

  • Nicki was recently tweeting a defense of the DOS severe food restriction.

    She wrote, “I was in the best shape of my life”.


    Why can’t Nicki still be in the best shape of her life? How does Keith being incarcerated have any bearing on what or how or why Nicki eats? It shouldn’t. It. Doesn’t. It’s very illogical.

    It’s interesting to read this post and some of the psychology explaining why these dead enders are stuck.

    And can’t even choose something as simplistic and basic as diet or exercise without Keith being in his former slave master position and following his every whim.

    • Nicki Clyne also tweeted a “shout out” (smh) to her mother. This was to thank her because were it not for her mother, she wouldn’t be an independent thinker who stands up for what’s right no matter how painful. This has to hurt her mother beyond words or comprehension. Her mother has been desperately trying to get her out, scared for her daughter’s safety and here she is….”Thanks, Mom! It’s all because of you….”

      • While working on a film project in Brooklyn last summer I met Nicki, Danielle, Michelle and Suneel. Danielle was the most open, curious and respectful but generally speaking the group is paranoid and closed. I can only imagine what their lives are like to have chosen the path they’vwoe chosen. It requires great strength (or great stupidity) to stay followers of Rainiere and to challenge the biases of the larger societal structures that put him in prison. So, I both applaud their work as social justice advocates but challenge their allegiance to a deceptive liar, manipulator, user and abuser of women.

        • You Know Who,

          On Dateline NBC – in spite of being the infamous & loathed “branding doctor”
          – Danielle presented as much more likable in all the ways you detail in comparison to Nicki Clyne. That’s my opinion.

          But viewers REALLY had an adverse reaction to Clyne. And they were not buying what she was selling. At. All.

          Nicki was perceived by viewers online as everything from delusional to simply dishonest & under Keith’s thrall still. And many commenters thought Nicki was even mentally ill. Or on drugs. That comment was made a lot.

          Whatever was going on with Nicki, it did not serve her well with the viewers.

          • ” And many commenters thought Nicki was even mentally ill. Or on drugs. That comment was made a lot.” Anonymous

            Both Allison Mack and Nicki Clyne are mentally ill.
            That’s why they are perfect for each other.

          • Danielle has many redeeming qualities, she is authentic, respectful and enjoyable to be around. I wish I knew her better to understand how she got in so deep and why her common sense has become so skewed?

            The others are very frightened and suspicious even of those who support their overriding social justice concerns. I don’t know them well enough to pass judgment on their mental status but my experience is they are very defensive and arrogant.

            The Brooklyn protest had the potential to be amazing but events conspired to prevent that. That’s a story that remains to be told…

          • == Danielle is authentic, respectful and enjoyable to be around.==

            Unless she has a cauterizing pen in her hand.

        • A first-hand account of someone who actually met these people: it’s a very interesting perspective. The defiance of these leftovers, in particular Nicki Clyne, to even the most common-sense viewpoints, is nauseating. The fact that they chose to ignore Keith’s pedophilia is beyond me……How can you support a man that abused a 12-year-old girl…….shame on them…….

  • You can only be a slave if you allow yourself to be a slave.

    For many people slavery is a liberation because it frees them for taking responsibility for their lives.

  • Best article I have ever read on the FR. Bookmarking this one.

    (I still wonder why the defense never called an expert witness)

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083