One of the most controversial aspects of DOS, at least as it is portrayed in the media and by a handful of former DOS members, is the concept of “collateral.” While the traditional definition of collateral is straightforward: “something pledged as security for repayment of a loan, to be forfeited in the event of a default” (Oxford Languages dictionary), the word has taken on a dark and sinister meaning due to the erroneous association with blackmail within the context of DOS.
In order for something to be blackmail, it has to be “extortion or coercion by threats, especially of public exposure or criminal prosecution” (Merriam Webster dictionary).
The key word here is “threat.”
Despite all the testimony from alleged victims in documentaries about NXIVM and a six-week criminal trial, not a single woman has claimed they were actually threatened with the release of collateral.
This means that any agreement where a surety is pledged to back a commitment can be deemed blackmail. So if someone pledges a house as collateral to get a loan, and defaults on that loan, and the bank comes for the house, then the individual can claim they’re being blackmailed. This obviously wouldn’t hold up in court, yet it follows the same logic as calling DOS collateral “blackmail.”
What is the purpose of Collateral?
To offer an example that might help in understanding why anyone would entrust a friend with collateral in the first place, consider the following scenario:
Let’s say I have a friend with a drinking problem. We’ll call her Lisa. Part of Lisa’s issue is that she never intends to get drunk. She’ll go out for dinner, order a drink, which leads to one more and one more until she’s drunk, and then she drives home, drunk.
This is bad for two reasons: the first being that she breaks her word to not drink, but more practically, she puts herself and others in danger by driving while intoxicated. When she’s sober, she is horrified by her behavior and vows to never do it again. However, she has proven that she doesn’t have the strength to make better decisions under certain circumstances. So, desperate to not drive drunk, Lisa asks me for help.
We’re going out for dinner and she gives me the keys to her car (first thing’s first, we’ll deal with the drinking problem later), and says, “No matter what I say, do NOT give me my car keys to drive home tonight.”
Despite her good intentions, she knows there’s a good chance she’ll get drunk and she doesn’t want to put herself in that position. I agree to take the keys and hold them for safe keeping. We go out. She, predictably, gets drunk and, in her intoxicated state, demands that I give her the keys so she can drive home. She assures me she’s fine to drive, even though she’s obviously slurring, and says, “If you don’t give me my keys, I’m calling the cops!”
I don’t hand over the keys.
Lisa says, “I’m going to tell them that you stole my car!” She actually goes as far as calling the cops and, when they show up, she yells and screams that I stole her car.
Now, did I steal the car? Or was there a good faith agreement that, under the circumstances, the act of keeping the keys was 1) in her best interest, and 2) appropriate behavior based on the mutual agreement we made.
You might say, but keeping the keys was obviously for the person’s safety and can be easily explained to the authorities. The same is true for DOS.
At the start of media campaign against DOS, local authorities declined to get involved because it was obvious that consenting adults were making their own decisions. The Northern District of New York, which would have been the correct jurisdiction for any FBI investigation, also declined to get involved for the same reasons.
NXIVM even hired a private company of former law enforcement to investigate the situation and determine if any laws were being broken and the answer was a resounding, “No.”
Within DOS, none of the women felt coerced or were heard complaining about their commitment. By that point, DOS had existed for over two years. When the rumor that the FBI was investigating DOS started circulating, by way of Catherine Oxenberg threatening her daughter, women in DOS genuinely believed that, if true, they would simply explain the whole situation, show all the evidence that proved the agreement was voluntary and collateral was never used outside the scope of the agreement, and that the whole media narrative was just one big misunderstanding. Were we naive?
Yes, most definitely. Were we ill-informed about how powerful people can weaponize the media and the justice system? Absolutely. Did we make mistakes? Of course. But never ever ever did we use collateral to harm anyone, nor release it to the public.
Women who joined DOS did so of their own volition and for a specific, stated purpose. That purpose was to enter into an agreement whereupon they would be held accountable by their master (the woman who invited her) to complete practices, follow through on goals, accept feedback, and work to become a better version of herself with her master’s full support and guidance.
The assumption was that someone joining DOS felt limited in certain areas of her life, and believed that a bold commitment, and guidance from a trusted friend, would help her overcome those challenges. No one’s collateral was ever at risk of being released if she didn’t complete a task or failed to do a practice. As testified at trial, the worst “punishment” for failing to complete a task or command was doing things like a one-minute plank, or the master taking on a consequence, like a cold shower. (Yes, you read that right, the master would sometimes take on consequences to teach how a person’s failures doesn’t just affect them, it affects others too.)
Most of the time, it was the person who failed who chose her own consequence in order to fix the mistake, not the master, always with the intention of learning, growing, and building conscience. Much of the time, masters and slaves lived in different homes, different cities, even different countries. I
t would have been easy to lie about taking on a consequence or admitting a failure, but we trusted each other and it was for the woman’s own benefit, not the master’s.
This dynamic is similar to an athlete trusting a coach to push them and direct them to do practices that help build the strength needed for success. We all have moments when we feel lazy, afraid, or lose sight of our vision, and if we aren’t careful, our life can pass us by while we’re lost in our excuses and distractions.
The intent of DOS was to help women build the inner strength required to stay focused, to not give in to fear, and to understand the responsibility of being a leader — whether that’s in a company, a family, or any other setting. We are all leaders in our own lives. The question is, where are we leading to?
Even answering that question was something a DOS master would help facilitate. Honest feedback from people outside of our circumstance is necessary to gain perspective. It’s often the case that our immediate family and friends don’t want to tell us the hard truths lest it disrupt the relationship, therefore the commitment in DOS was to provide honest, constructive feedback with the goal of personal growth, self-awareness, and self-love.
Now, back to the collateral. There are more facts that can easily debunk the distorted way it’s been represented in the mainstream narrative.
There are those who have claimed the collection of collateral was coercive to begin with. This can easily be debunked by the fact that there are many women who were invited to learn about DOS by giving first collateral (to ensure secrecy about DOS) who declined. There are also women who gave collateral to learn about DOS and ensured secrecy, who then declined the offer to join. These women’s collateral was never released, nor threatened to be released, and the friendships between the women were not affected negatively.
So, how is DOS coercive if there is no negative consequence to saying no, and numerous examples of people saying no? It was assumed that the women who decided to join DOS, through a lengthy and thorough process of evaluation and self-examination, did so because they saw it as something they wanted. Is it possible they thought they wanted it and then changed their minds? Of course, we all do that. But that’s the exact process that all too often keeps us from achieving our dreams.
Our tendency to change course when things get hard is precisely what DOS was trying to address. In life, there are many points where we can either choose away from our commitments because it’s uncomfortable, or we can push through the discomfort and find that we are stronger on the other side. We never know everything involved in a commitment when we make it, whether that’s a career, a relationship, or joining an organization; consider the commitment to join the military! But no matter what the commitment is — a diet, a workout, a creative project — we build internal fortitude and belief in ourselves when we stay the course. DOS was about helping women stay the course, especially through the times when it’s uncomfortable and challenging.
Another relevant fact about the collateral is that no one who was rightfully entrusted with it ever released it to the public. Each individual master collected collateral from the women she invited, then put it in a safe and/or kept it on an encrypted drive for safekeeping.
This is significant because it shows that, despite the agreement that the collateral was to back the commitment to secrecy and the DOS path, it was ultimately a gesture to help each woman in DOS feel a sense of gravity behind their word. Sarah Edmondson, for example, openly admits to breaking her commitment and there were no consequences from anyone in DOS. Quite the opposite.
The smear campaign she pioneered has destroyed the lives and careers of many women she once called friends. Others left before and after Sarah also. It was for the woman giving collateral to build strength behind her commitments and be reminded of what she once thought it was worth to her (like the sober person handing over the keys) to stay the course. It was never intended nor used to coerce anyone to do something that could be harmful or beneficial to anyone else.
There are former DOS members, however, who stole collateral. Jessica Joan claims in her memoir and in sworn testimony that she took screenshots of the collateral (which she was not entrusted with and should not have had access to) and shared it with her boyfriend and Mark Vicente over email in case she needed it as “leverage” down the line.
This exposes a criminal intent on her part, and also explains why her projection of the collateral would be a sinister one. She is the only one who has released collateral, even though she was never threatened with the release of hers, nor was her collateral ever made public. However, Jessica’s breach of trust has harmed many. Mark Vicente gave the collateral to Frank Parlato, and when Nicole (a woman who voluntarily left DOS without consequence in July 2017) spoke to Frank to request her name be taken off his blog, he told her he had her collateral and she should talk to Catherine Oxenberg. So, while Nicole was never threatened by anyone in DOS with the release of collateral, it’s possible she was coerced after she left because her collateral was stolen, and ended up in someone’s hands who never should have had it to begin with.
Another fact that has been ignored by purveyors of the salacious narrative is that the process to keep collateral secure involved keeping it in a safe that only one person had access to.
Keith Raniere never possessed nor had access to collateral, unless someone chose to send something directly to him. The goal was to keep each person’s collateral safe and secure, so it couldn’t be mishandled or unintentionally leaked. The intention was to never actually release collateral.
The intention was to inspire a sense of gravity and seriousness with regard to one’s word so that it wasn’t so easy to quit on oneself.
Early on in DOS, a couple of women joined and then felt that the path wasn’t for them. It was sad to think they could make such a strong commitment and then back out, but it would be wrong to want it more than they did. So, they left and their collateral was never released or threatened to be released. Sometimes we’ll do anything to get out of our commitments because it’s too scary, too hard, too uncomfortable, but we are capable of so much more than our self-created constraints. The discomfort of giving up on ourselves when we’ve backed our word with collateral is intended to be greater than whatever adversity we might face on our path to success.
It is in those defining moments, when we can either quit or continue through the challenges, we have the opportunity to choose our higher selves and prove that we are capable of greatness.
It’s understandable that DOS has attracted critics, questions, and even controversy. Unfortunately, the truth has been twisted beyond recognition and much that was intended to remain private between trusted friends has been made into a hostile public discourse. The perspective of the women who remain positive about DOS is not that the concept was perfect or the people involved infallible.
But rather, that DOS was created with good intentions and the people involved were honest in their efforts to bring more honor, discipline, and personal responsibility to the lives of the women who decided to join. Unfortunately, DOS’s history has so far been written by dishonest actors with personal agendas and weak character. The most tragic consequence is not just the damage to the women who wish to uphold their sacred vow and commitment to their fellow sisters, who are now wrongfully branded “sex slaves” and worse.
There is also tragedy in the damage to the principle of sisterhood itself. Women who choose honor over hate, and integrity over social acceptance, should be celebrated. Women who choose victimhood over personal responsibility, and delusions over truth, should be helped. That is precisely what DOS was trying to do.
That’s it for the Dossier women. Now I, Frank Parlato, will say a few words. Collateral is what sunk Keith Raniere. It was that and that alone that gave the feds their forced labor and sex trafficking charges. Now Keith is a brilliant man. He had all these good intentions. He would have the women hand over life-ruining if it were released collateral to other women – for life.
He thought this would work for thousands of women. If nothing else it shows he is an idiot. This collateral would coerce secrecy and lifetime obedience. Stupid.
But let’s say it was well intended stupidity. Then why lie? Why did Keith Raniere tells his slaves to lie about him being the ultimate master in a master slave sorority? Why call it a sorority that is 100 percent controlled by a man?
They went out of their way to deceive the recruits – and that’s the fraud. They lied about Raniere, lied about the brand, the meaning of the brand. They told these women that it was the symbol of the four elements, not the rascal’s initials.
Stupid. But dishonest too. Talk about righteousness all you want Dossier ladies, but this was fraud — hiding Raniere.
Maybe collateral was not meant to be bad in the hands of the slave masters of the first line. Or second line or third line. But there was one thing missing – informed consent. The fact is Keith was the master and as we know from the DOS manual – the master is the end all and be all, the all in all for the slave – and every one of the slaves from the first line down were subject to one man – Raniere. If Lauren was your master, you were not placing your collateral with her. Because she had to do whatever Raniere said.
A man heading a sorority is odd enough and should be disclosed. But when that man controls life-ruining collateral – for life- over a person expected to be a slave – recruited under false pretenses – even people stupid enough to believe Raniere had good intentions should realize this will fail.
It did fail, and we never found out if Raniere would have ever ordered the collateral released on anyone. He never got the chance because Frank Report busted him wide open.
Considering his deceptions in the structure of DOS, only a damn execrable fool would entrust life-ruining blackmail worthy material to a deceptive liar.
The only problem is that only eight women knew Raniere controlled all – and the other 97 women who gave collateral were deceived. Stupid on him that he never thought that would fall to pieces. It did and all the Dossier slaves won’t be able to put Dumbo Raniere back together again.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. When Raniere deceptively took the collateral – even if he did not hold it himself- the collateral was on him. His ordering his slaves to get it was his collateral not theirs.
It is like we had a rascal who could not help but do bad things and he said to us – I’ll give you some collateral to hold to stop me – and the blessed boy did.
He’s sunk and he knows it. He’s just playing games with the remaining believers. They have a long row to hoe.