Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Nxivm witness: Keith Raniere put women through brutal humiliation to ‘toughen’ them

[Mark Vicente, still on the stand]

Our correspondent Dianne Lipson reports to us on the morning session today at the Nxivm trial, where filmmaker Mark Vicente continues to be on direct examination for the prosecution.

Here are her impressions…

Vicente has an agreement with the government not to be prosecuted, and he has an attorney representing him in civil matters.

In 2008, the “Nxivm Nine” broke away from the group over concerns about how Keith Raniere was running the organization. Vicente can now describe how that looked from inside the group.

Raniere said the Nine were “socialists” and “suppressives,” they were enemies and defectors. Their claims that they had concerns about how money was being handled was really just an extortion attempt. Raniere responded to their complaints by filing civil litigation against defector Barbara Bouchey.


Vicente was instructed to go to a Nxivm center and do damage control because people were leaving. Keith said the Nine had left because they had never got through their issues.

After helping to handle the fallout from the defection of the Nine, Vicente was promoted to “green sash” and he was made a member of new executive board.

But Vicente added that there was also another trusted inner group that were separate from the executive board. The trusted group wasn’t necessarily based on rank. They were treated to social outings. They might be invited to Clare Bronfman’s farm or Nancy Salzman’s house, or to Fiji.

Vicente earned approval for going to bat for Kieth at several points, and for doing filming in Mexico, which was risky. Seeking Keith’s approval was very important. If you didn’t praise Keith in a speech, you heard about it.

Members of the trusted group recruited people of influence, enrolling high-net worth individuals.

Vicente said there were two systems for payment from Mexico. Online and cash. He saw a lot of cash being handled by Nancy, and they had a code word for it: “TLL.”

At one point, Vicente had questions about people who had committed ethical breaches, but then he stopped asking about it. He got the feeling that he shouldn’t be inquiring about it.

There was no formal process of rehabilitation.

If someone wasn’t giving proper praise to Keith, they were said to be “prideful.” Vicente was told that he was prideful and lacked an understanding of “tribute” to Keith. For years, he was accused of not fully understanding Keith’s greatness.

As you moved up the stripe path, you had to be open to more feedback. If you argued, it was a sign of pride, or resistance. People in Nxivm were forbidden from talking to people outside Nxivm about any internal issues.

There were attempts to curry favor with the Clintons, and a state senator, Joseph Bruno. Nancy spent time with Bruno. And Clare bundled a lot of contributions.

Nxivm filed lawsuits against journalists, against Times Union, Vanity Fair. The government lawyer asked Vicente if he was afraid of being sued by Nxivm. “Indeed, I was,” Vicente answered.

Did Vicente know about the use of PIs? He said he had two conversations with Raniere about that. Keith claimed that his PIs had found a defector, Kristin Snyder, alive in a hotel with a girlfriend. And later in 2014 they had found her in Florida but then lost her. (Alaskan state police say that Snyder committed suicide there in 2003, but her body was never found.)

Vicente had made a trailer for Vanguard Week, and he was told to remove a portion of it because a woman named Nicole was reportedly on a mission, and it would be dangerous if she were known to be a Nxivm member. Keith thanked him for taking her out.

Men made up a Nxivm group called the Society of Protectors, but at some point it was opened up to women. Vicente said it was run like a boot camp, with hazing. Keith believed that women lacked discipline and needed to be toughened up.

Man up and stop crying, they’d be told. It was to give women the experience of being a boy in a man’s world. They would be ridiculed with nicknames and costumes — fairy wings, etc.

At one point, Clare Bronfman was given a jock strap to wear because of thinking she was in charge of things. This was Keith’s idea. (Dianne adds that Vicente said only that was given the jock strap, but that he didn’t say that he’d seen her put it on.)

Women are chronic complainers and whiners, Keith said.

At one point, Vicente brought some women’s concerns to Keith, and afterwards he thought that was a bad idea because Keith wanted to know who the women were who had complained.

Vicente was told this new Society of Protectors with women was intended to make women stronger, but he said they were beaten into submission and became shells of themselves. It broke them.

Vicente was asked his feelings about participating in this kind of activity. He said he felt ashamed about enforcing dark, hateful misogyny.

The women who took part in it started to have an unusual appearance. They were pale and unhealthily thin. They looked terrible.

Vicente said he could see their bones. His greatest concern was Allison Mack. Her weight was dropping so much. She was tired, out of it. Looked malnourished.

Vicente said he talked to Keith. This isn’t healthy. But Keith responded that Allison was still getting her period, so he wasn’t too concerned. Vicente said he didn’t get clear answers, but at some point Keith said he was trying to break Allison.

There was more of course, and Dianne is doing a great job getting us as many details as she can. She went back in for the afternoon session.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 13, 2019 at 14:25

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects at The Underground Bunker. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email