Maja Miljkovic is a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit where she claims NXIVM forced her to seduce a member and then marry him so she could remain in the country and work for them.
The story, Canadian Alleges She Was Forced to Seduce, Marry NXIVM Man But He Says It’s Untrue, prompted an anonymous commenter to accuse me of bias. The story is about Maja Miljkovic and the man she married.
The anonymous commenter, who accused me of bias, uses the name Aristotle’s Sausage.
Aristotle’s Sausage: Your article strikes me as grossly unfair to Maja Miljkovic and frankly pro-Nxivm. The facts of this case are laid out in chapter 19 of journalist Sara Berman’s book Don’t Call It A Cult.
Frank Parlato: Maja’s side of the story is told in Berman’s book. I do not believe Berman spoke with John Doe.
Aristotle: The “John Doe” true identity is disclosed in Berman’s book, so it seems bizarre for the Frank Report to endeavor to conceal his identity. He is a Nxivm loyalist and steadfast Raniere defender [name redacted]. [His] version of events is misleading at best.
Parlato: Your metric for “misleading” is that which does not comport with Maja’s version, which is, of course, bias.
Withholding his name was done tongue in cheek. But what if a striking brunette had been seduced into marriage? Would anybody dare question not naming her?
Aristotle: Miljkovic was lured into Nxivm, like so many others, by a close friend she trusted. There were several fellow Vancouver actors talking it up and urging her on (group pressure).
Parlato: Did that friend employ a lure to hook Maja or believe they were offering something nice?
Aristotle: Sarah Edmondson, an ace Nxivm recruiter who ran the Vancouver Nxivm chapter, knew which buttons to push.
Parlato: You accuse Sarah of pushing people’s buttons, turning things on or off, making something go in one direction or another; the implication being that the person whose buttons are pushed does not know they are being manipulated. Sarah Edmondson is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, a victim; you are lumping her in with the same behavior as the defendants.
Aristotle: This was at the time that Nxivm was aggressively expanding and establishing; an acting program was one part of this. Mobius morphed into Ultima, then The Source. Miljkovic was enthusiastic. The manipulation had already begun. This was a cult, after all.
Mobius required MAKING A VOW. This was, in their rhetoric, to commit publicly and “get some peer accountability going.” Does making a vow sound familiar? Yeah. The other name for DOS was The Vow.
Parlato: I asked people who took Mobius, and they said they did not make a vow.
Aristotle: There was enforced commitment. And the punishment for failure.
Quote: “At the end of ‘Human Pain’ [!] another intensive that often followed Möbius, students would would form a ‘penance group’ where FAILURES WOULD BE PUNISHED WITH COLD SHOWERS [my emphasis] …DOS wouldn’t be created for another two years but some of the elements that would define it were already taking shape.”
Parlato: Human Pain was an eight-day intensive, described as “learning to feel and understand that love and pain often go together.”
The “penance” group was called the “conscience group.” It was voluntary. Members would each declare goals. It might be jogging a certain number of miles, losing weight, or doing something they wanted to get done.
It was one-for-all and all-for-one. If one of the group failed, all of them would take on a pre-agreed hardship, decided by consensus. One penance was taking cold showers; another was not using social media for a day, doing planks, giving up coffee, etc.
If Jane Doe did not jog the 5 miles she said she would; then the entire group would take a cold shower the next day. Sure it’s silly, but the idea was that members would be more likely to do what they said if, when they failed, they would have to face their friends and tell them, “you are all going to have to take a cold shower because I didn’t keep my word.”
Of course, it was trivial, nothing compared with the serious consequence of collateralizing in DOS. It was also on the honor system. No one entered your shower to see if you used hot water.
It’s not for me, but I could see how it could benefit beginners. But I have taken cold showers most of my life and once plunged into the Niagara in February, so the notion of a little cold water is hardly terrifying as it might be to some who would write in all caps TO DESCRIBE IT.
Aristotle: This was the environment Miljkovic was suckered into and by now deeply committed financially.
Parlato: Mobius cost $5,000. The precondition was taking the 16-day NXIVM intensive, which cost $7,500. Human Pain, another eight-day intensive, cost $5,000, Three courses cost $17,500.
Aristotle: Oh, and BTW, Maja lived with master manipulators and Nxivm recruiters Allison Mack and Mark Vicente in the cult compound.
Parlato: Vicente is a plaintiff. Mack, a defendant. Your lines of demarcation are getting blurred between plaintiffs and defendants. I don’t think Maja lived with Mark and Allison. I think she lived with Kayla Grosse.
The NXIVM members lived in separate townhouses in the same subdivision and had about 1000 non-NXIVM neighbors.
Aristotle: As for the arranged marriage to [John Doe], a visa fraud like so many others, Clare Bronfman arranged… Clare was well known in the Nxivm community for “fixing” these visa problems, as others will undoubtedly attest.
Parlato: Clare was in Ultima, along with Maja and 100 others. Ultima birthed the Knife, the Source, exo/eso, Ethicist, all these offshoots where Raniere could soak people for more cash. Clare knew Maja. Did she arrange her visa? Maja had a visitor visa, something anyone can get.
Aristotle: Clare was pretty hands-on around Nxivm. Quoting Sara Berman’s book again, Don’t Call It A Cult:
“Miljkovic remembers one evening when at an Apropos community night… Clare Bronfman came to get her and bring her to Raniere.
‘Keith would like to talk to you,’ Bronfman told her”. Clare was pimping for Raniere.
Parlato: If Clare came to fetch Maja to bring her to Apropos, the Dark Lord was priming his tongue to do more than talk.
Aristotle: Miljkovic then describes Raniere’s specific grooming techniques, his “mirroring,” and his inappropriate public touching. He would touch a woman’s breasts or crotch, and if she objected, that would be turned around on her, that she was at fault for not accepting his touch, and everyone present would, of course, agree.
And Clare Bronfman wasn’t some distant entity, writing checks far from the cult compound in Albany. She spent time there, and she knew what was going on. She had plenty of time to observe Raniere in action. She knew and supported his methods. She knew about and participated in Nxivm’s criminal activities. That’s why she’s currently in prison.
Yes, the facts appear at odds with “John Doe’s” tale. I’ll be charitable and suggest perhaps he misremembers.
Parlato: I might misremember this, but I thought I heard John Doe say, “Damn, I think Maja Miljkovic just seduced me, but it would have to happen two or three more times for me to be sure.”
Aristotle: So was Maja Miljkovic “forced”? She was undoubtedly pressured. Coerced. Manipulated. Subjected to punishments.
Parlato: What punishment? Taking a cold shower? Was she paddled?
Maja Miljkowic admits she deceived Doe on one of the most important things in life – marriage. Yes, Doe is a victim.
Still, the complaint alleges, “Defendants forced her to seduce [Doe]… and marry him.”
But was she forced? She was not forced into a room or gunpoint until she seduced him.
Was it Raniere’s force of persuasion, the force of his arguments, that forced her?
Or his electromagnetic force that also made radar detectors go off?
When Maja set out to seduce Doe, did she have to force a smile? Was their conversation forced?
Was she forced to reveal her intentions?
Did the forces of nature compel them to be intimate?
Keith forced unwanted attention on her, grabbing her crotch and breasts, but he was not an irresistible force.
NXIVM students were forcing the pace, Mobius, Human Pain, the Source, but Maja forced her way through the classes and was only forced to leave because her visitor visa expired. The immigration laws were still in force then.
Was her force of character insufficient to prevent her from seducing and marrying a man for illegal purpose? Was she a force to be reckoned or a spent force? Or was it the force of circumstances? The force of conscience might have been the guiding force.
It could have been all these forces, but at the end of the day, Maja was not coerced, compelled, constrained, or obligated. What happened to Maja was not force that is a tort or crime.
Aristotle: She was immersed in a cult, isolated, surrounded by people who are experts and well-practiced in psychological tricks and utterly devoted to their criminal enterprise.
All this time, Miljkovic was being groomed by Raniere. The kissing on the lips and the pelvis grind “hugs” were normalized by everyone, as was the blatant misogyny everywhere, from the courses to the volleyball games. Miljkovic was subject to the standard cult indoctrination full-time.
Parlato: Yes, look at the pictures below and see how bad it was
Aristotle: Here’s an example of how the Nxivm cult manipulation worked.
Quote: “Miljkovic said she’d love to be part of it [Ultima], but she had to go back to Canada.
‘Keith was like, “Why? Why don’t you want to stay?”’ she recalls.
Raniere wouldn’t let her say no. He was pulling out the ‘specify, isolate, overcome’ routine.
‘What would you need to stay?’ he asked. ‘Money, a visa, a house — what if we could get you all of that?’”
Parlato: He made her an offer she couldn’t refuse? But she did refuse. And no horse head in the bed.
Aristotle: As for Raniere, Miljkovic compares him to a Mafia don, holding state at the Apropos clubhouse, everyone around her worshiping the man. She found him creepy. She resisted.
She pushed back at the misogyny at the volleyball games. “A cartoonish performance of masculinity and femininity.”
Raniere wasn’t even very good at the game, she recalls. He insisted on coaching her. “His coaching felt like being publicly berated, which made her fume in silence. “I was like, Fuck that. You missed half your own shots, buddy.”
In volleyball, there was an A team which the mighty Keith was on, and another team of lesser talent would play at the same time on another court. The A team was generally male, but Mariana, who was athletic, sometimes Clare and Kristanna Loken played with the A-team.
Aristotle: Suffice it to say that she was unimpressed with Vanguard Raniere.
Parlato: So you’re saying then that he did not brainwash her?
Aristotle: I like Miljkovic. She’s got the right stuff. Sure, she was a fool for ever joining Nxivm, but she was lured in, trapped, manipulated, and exploited. Fraud, sexual harassment, and peonage are clearly evident. She never completely fell for it, and she didn’t abuse others the way Salzman’s or Mack did. Or the way Vicente and India did, for that matter.
Parlato: Whoa, hold on, Ari, India, and Vicente are plaintiffs in the same lawsuit as Maja. You seem to get the victims and defendants mixed up.
Aristotle: Miljkovic is a victim of Nxivm, but they never broke her spirit or her integrity.
Parlato: Speaking of integrity, I love the language in the complaint: “Defendants supposedly ‘saved’ her from having to leave the community, for which she would be forever indebted to the Defendants. However, after a visit home, Maja Miljkovic realized how badly the marriage would complicate her life and, instead of filing an application for permanent resident status, ended the marriage and remained in her home country.”
Wait, did the defendants save her from leaving the NXIVM community in Albany by forcing her to marry John Doe?
No, she left Albany before she got married. And she did not “visit home.” She visited Albany on a visitor visa; then she returned to her “home country.” With a name like Miljkovic, where was her home country? Eastern Europe? Croatia. No, it was Canada. So why not just say it? “She went back home to Canada.”
And, no, she wasn’t forced to marry John Doe in Albany or Vancouver. She was 3,000 miles away from those scary rascal defendants who punished her with cold showers and made her seduce a NXIVM man. But John Doe came to Vancouver.
The wedding, I am told, had about 40 guests, including Doe’s parents and Maja’s parents. They were wed in August 2014 and broke up before September but remained friends.
On Sept. 9, 2014, Maja wrote to one of her NXIVM friends that she had tried to come back to the USA to rejoin them in Albany but was refused entry at the US border. She overstayed her visa, and they would not let her come back after all.
She wrote she would continue to support the team from a distance. She was now in a financial bind, which is not surprising with all the courses she had taken. She reported she got a day job but was willing to work for the team at night. She never came back.
She also wrote that John Doe “and I are no longer ‘sharing romantic content,’ as Keith would put it.”
This strongly suggests that she was not forced to share romantic content with Doe.
Aristotle: Maja Miljkovic represents one of the good ones, and there are many in this case. I hope she’s awarded a million bucks.
Parlato: I think a million is nowhere near reality.
If the Bronfmans offered $10 million to settle, it would be accepted. The attorneys get a third, plus expenses. That would be at least $4 million.
That means $6 million left for 70 plaintiffs. But all plaintiffs are not equal. The 44 consumer fraud plaintiffs won’t stand to collect as much as the DOS victims, Camila, Daniela, Nicole, India Oxenberg, Jessica Joan, Soukiana Mehdaoui, Veronica Jaspeado, and, of course, Mark, Nippy, and Sarah, who were threatened.
If even $2 million were allotted for the 44, which is a lot, that would mean $45,454 per plaintiff. Damn, that’s probably less than what Maja spent on NXIVM classes.
I’m reluctant to say it, but I must, Viva Executive Success!