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


NXIVM: Witness describes Keith Raniere’s gaslighting to keep her enslaved

[Keith Raniere]

Dianne Lipson says the testimony from former Nxivm slave Daniela has turned gut-wrenching. Here’s her latest report, starting with Wednesday’s afternoon session…

Wednesday afternoon’s testimony was the most harrowing I’ve heard yet in this case. But more on that later.

The afternoon started with discussion of Kristin Keeffe’s pregnancy. Daniela noticed that Kristin’s belly looked swollen. She asked Keith if Kristin was pregnant, and Keith said no. One day Kristin couldn’t be found, and she was discovered in a pool of blood. She was brought to the hospital. Daniela took the call from the hospital, informing her that Kristin was pregnant. Kristin ended up having the baby. Only a small circle of people knew that it was Kristen and Keith’s baby. A cover story was crafted about the baby’s origins. This was to protect Keith’s image as a celibate living a monk-like existence. Daniela had interaction with the little boy, Gaelen. She babysat, sometimes overnight if Kristen was out of town. Cami also had interaction with the boy as a nanny in Rainbow Cultural Garden. Very few times did Daniela see Keith interact with Gaelen.

The emails from the morning testimony were a small representative sample of the high volume of email exchanges between Keith and Daniela.

More emails before 2010 were shown in evidence. Daniela was living at her parents’ house, but under severe restraints.


In another email exchange, Keith accuses Daniela of self-pity because she wants to stop living a monk-like existence. He said: You are not living this life because you are told to. It’s the best happiest alternative to fix your breach. You should be grateful there is a way to undo this wrong.

In another email Keith writes: Anyone with a conscience does not look to make things better until the breach is healed.

Keith did not want Daniela on Facebook. He wanted her to have no visibility.

Daniela had baked a special bread for a Mexican holiday. She emailed Keith for permission to attend the party for a short time, saying that it would look odd if she did not attend, since she had baked the bread. But she could not reach Keith. When he found out she attended the party, he said she made the wrong decision. Wanting to go was a ploy for attention. Daniela says Keith wanted her to stay completely isolated. At volleyball her brother Adiran, nicknamed Fluffy, had implied that Daniela needed Keith’s permission to attend volleyball. Keith lied to him, saying, “It’s up to her.” Keith emailed Daniela, “This belief of your imprisonment is your direct doing.” (Within the family, Adrian had already begun to show signs of disloyalty to Keith. For instance, not agreeing with the special treatment accorded him.) Keith did not want people to think he was imprisoning Daniela, and he said it was Daniela’s fault for giving this impression.

In an email dated March 1, 2009, excerpts of what Daniela wrote: I no longer see you in the same way. I want to create a life for myself. I would like to sustain myself, but I can’t because of restraints. I don’t want to keep doing this. My life now has no value. I’m caught in an impossible cycle. I want to work, make money, become self-sufficient. I want to go to school. I don’t miss you anymore. I almost feel I want to break away. I’m the wrong person for this. I’m not ethical enough. I feel lost. The illusions have been shattered. I don’t want a romantic relationship with you or anyone else. I want to go back to before I met you.

Daniela now says she was having a moment of lucidity. It was rare. “I knew what I wanted and it wasn’t Keith. I wanted to move on.”

Keith’s response to this email was to say things like: You need to repair and restore your feeling about what is right. This is the biggest mistake of your life (not wanting Keith). Your sick pride must be destroyed. Your life needs to be worse, you are too comfortable. You need more pain. Keith wrote, “I need your WHOLE (Keith’s caps) life, this is the only way.”

In another email chain, Daniela confessed to Keith that she had broken a fast she was on. In his reply, Keith called her “tubby.” Daniela had to look up the word.

Daniela took Benadryl for a rash. But Keith said her rash was generated by her unwillingness to fix her breach.

Keith asked Daniela to send him photos of her genitals. She did so, but balked when he asked for photos that included both her privates and her face. Keith kept pushing for these photos, he wrote that he wanted Daniela to be totally vulnerable, said he wished she loved him enough to send him the pictures he wanted.

Dani did not leave her parents’ house without permission. The family felt it was their responsibility to “help” her. First her computer, then her music, then her bed, was taken away. Dani was writing to Keith incessantly and doing her every 15 minute checks. “Every waking hour was about my ethical breach.”

Her parents did not know she had had sex with Keith. She did not tell them, because she thought they would not believe her. She was already not acting normal, because she felt trapped. Her life was constant harassment and confusion, being told she was bad. She told her parents, “You don’t understand.” Her parents were not on her side, they were on Keith’s side. Keith told her parents about the money she had stolen years ago. Dani thinks he did this to justify his treatment of her. He couldn’t tell them the real reason, that it was all about Ben.

Her weight was still a focus. She was supposed to be under 120 lbs. There was a lock on the fridge. Then one day, they locked her out of the house. Dani doesn’t remember what she did, but they told her she needed a consequence. She walked around, came back, but they didn’t let her in. It was winter in Albany. She was cold and hungry. She went to a laundromat to be inside, and a man, thinking she was homeless, gave her five dollars. She bought the cheapest food she could find. She slept outside. She kept moving, not wanting to attract the attention of police and be thrown in jail because of her immigration status. In a couple of days, her parents let her back in, and she said she was grateful and sorry, all the right things.

One day it was arranged that she would apologize to Keith. Dani was allowed to walk by herself to Hale Drive. Keith answered the door. There he was, after over 2 years. Dani looked at him. She said nothing. She just could not apologize. Eventually Keith closed the door and Dani left.

This only confirmed that she was a horrible person and she should be punished more. All her things were taken away, her documents along with them. They took everything. She now had no documents. Dani said she never got them back. Punishments escalated, and Dani told her parents she wanted to go back to Mexico and live a simple life. Because of her immigration status, to go to Mexico Dani would have needed someone to drive her. Her parents, Karen (Unterreiner) and Lauren presented Dani with a horrifying idea. Dani going back to Mexico, would be on their terms. Go into a room, and heal your ethical breach. If you don’t do that, if you go back to Mexico, you will lose your family. Dani asked how long she would be in the room. She was told, “As long as it takes.” Dani said no, she was not going in the room! But it was clear her parents were on board with the idea, and Dani’s parents were all she now had. That night she slipped out and called Ben from a pay phone. “Ben will get me out of here,” she thought. But Ben never picked up. The next day Dani realized, “I had no choice.” She tried to convince everyone it was not necessary, but no one listened.

Now she was in a bedroom on the second floor of 12 Wilton Court. There were the four walls, a door to the staircase, and a door to a shared bathroom. There was a foam mattress on the floor, and a pen and paper, for her to write to Keith and heal her ethical breach. The window was papered over. She only had the clothes she came in with.

Lauren was supposed to look in on her. Sometimes it was a week before she came. Once Lauren did not come for three months. Except for Lauren, Dani saw no one. Her meals were left outside the door. Sometimes there were no meals. In her isolation, she crouched by the door to try to hear people’s voices. She became food obsessed. If her meal came late, she ‘went crazy.’ She was writing every day. She thinks she did go crazy. She lost perception of things, became numb. Some packages of food, the shampoo in the bathroom, had words. She made a dictionary of these words, to keep herself busy. In her mind, she would go outside, and try to re-create every detail, so she wouldn’t go crazy. When she went crazy, she lost it. She lost control of herself, lying on the floor and scratching her arms. Wanting to scream but not allowed to. There were a lot of hours in the day.

She hated Lauren. Lauren didn’t visit enough, and was mean to Dani when she came. But when Lauren did visit, Dani strangely felt that she loved her and didn’t want her to leave.

Dani took down the paper and looked out the window.

Dani tried to find the ‘code,’ the right combination of words to fix the breach. She wrote sincere sounding love letters. None of it worked.

At a breaking point, Dani cut her waist-length hair. Keith had not allowed her to cut her hair, but this was something she could control. At Lauren’s next visit, Lauren said it was a huge ethical breach. The scary part was that the only way she could heal this breach was to stay in the room till it grew back. That would take years. Dani felt enraged, impotent. It made no sense.

At an early point, Dani wanted to be let out, saying this is not healing the breach. But she was told the only way to heal the breach was for her to want to be in the room. That’s why she wrote that she wanted to be in the room.

Once, when no one was there, she went out the front door. She remembers the crisp air, the brightness. She walked around, but came back. If she didn’t return, she would lose everything. She was desperate to read. One day she discovered two books in a box in the house. She read them over and over, but she eventually confessed to this.

One day, more than a year in, Dani sneaked downstairs and went online. She checked her email. Except for a year old birthday message from Ben, she had no other messages. No one had emailed her. Nobody wrote to her, nobody missed her. She was gone from the world and nobody noticed. She cried for days and days. In contrast to the cerebral style of all of her earlier testimony, Dani became emotional as she recounted this.

This was getting harder and harder. She was losing her strength, losing her sense of self. When Ms. Penza asked her to describe her mental state, Dani said it was hard to explain. She would get crazy, lose control of her mind. Nothing made sense. She second-guessed all her thoughts. She had the awareness that “Nobody cares about me.” Now Dani was crying on the witness stand, saying her mother didn’t come, her sister didn’t come. Now sobbing, “Somebody come get me! Please let me out! Nobody cared, nobody cared. Nobody cares that I’m losing my life.”

Dani made a decision. It was on a day that was like any other day in her captivity. She wanted to end her life. She caught sight of a red bird out the window. It was from a family of birds whose nest she had watched. She had seen the bird babies. This bird had grown up and left, but now it came back. Dani felt, “I want to live.” There was a sense of freedom. She wanted to live like everybody else. She didn’t care about her family anymore. “Fuck you all! I want to live.”

She wanted to tell Keith. She left the house and walked to volleyball, after almost two years. The look on everybody’s face. Keith was there. When he saw her, Keith ran to hide. Dani was grabbed and pulled outside.

End of day 14.

Thursday morning’s testimony

For a while that Daniela was in the room, her mother came into the room next to her. Daniela couldn’t talk to her mom, but she could hear her mom talking to others. It was reassuring.

But then her mother left for a funeral in Mexico and never came back to the room. That was considered another ethical breach, and Daniela was blamed.

In evidence: Daniela’s journal. She was real artistic talent, drawing images of troubled women.

Also, notes she had written to Keith, describing plans she made while still in the room. She made many plans but never heard back about them. In one, she finished her not, Can I come out of this? Please, please, please?

Also in evidence, a recording of Keith speaking with Daniela’s mother. Keith had a trope that he kept using to describe how Daniela was in so much trouble, and referring to Daniela’s training for a triathlon: “If you killed a child with a car, would you think about going on a triathlon? Dani knows what she has to do, Keith would say.

Penza asked Daniela, have you killed a child?
Daniela: No.
Penza: What did you do?
Daniela: I kissed Ben Myers.

There was plenty more manipulation in the notes. He was gaslighting Daniela’s parents.

And it sounded like Keith successfully got across to the mom what he wanted her to do. His point was sometimes you have to do a very hard thing. But you have to do it. “I know this is scary, I know this is hard but you’ll feel better about it”: Keith.

Daniela described going to Mexico after finally getting out of the room. She was accompanied by Kristen Keeffe and Daniela’s father, Hector.

She was on her way back to Mexico with no money and no papers. And she wasn’t allowed to go to her home town. She had to go somewhere where nobody knew her.

Keeffe made sure she was never alone with her father on the trip.

Her father’s accountant met her at the border and took her to the a station.

She was alone for a moment with her dad. He gave her 1500 pesos. They cried. Please do everything you need to to get back to us, he told her.

She took the bus to her destination city, which was left unnamed. She looked for a job, and got one at a computer store. She also went to the library to get a library card, because she was still expected to write book reports for Raniere.

She got additional jobs, as an English language teacher, and the manager of hotel restaurant. She was also giving tennis lessons, including to the child of a human rights lawyer. When she told the lawyer that she had no documents, the lawyer helped her get her birth certificate.

That made it easier to get other documents she needed. She also got a boyfriend and began thriving.

She says she realized that she was not going to change the world, but she she just wanted to live her own life.

Eventually her mother found her, and they had an emotional reunion. But Daniela also screamed at her: Why didn’t you come get me? They talked it out.

Then, it turned out that the hotel where she worked (running its restaurant) was going to be the location for Emiliano Salinas’s weeding.

Nxivm people were coming to the wedding. At one point Daniela met with Lauren. Daniela said this meeting with Lauren was two worlds clashing.

Lauren said, “How are you doing in your program?

But Daniela didn’t care about that anymore.

And now Dianne has gone back in for the afternoon session.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 30, 2019 at 14:20

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