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NXIVM: A Keith Raniere sex slave describes the trauma of being branded

[A Nxivm brand]

We’ve been on the road, and so we didn’t have a chance until today to post Dianne Lipson’s gripping account of Nicole’s testimony on Friday afternoon at the Nxivm trial. Nicole, an actress, described what it was like to be branded as one of Keith Raniere’s sex slaves in yet more gripping testimony recorded by Dianne…

I got a better look at Nicole today. She is really pretty, even beautiful.

At this point in her testimony, Nicole is describing a period when she was having a sexual relationship with Keith. Mostly oral sex, his common preference. Nicole was uncomfortable with this, and Keith told her that Allison Mack was also uncomfortable at first. But Keith told her that Allison really trusted the women around her who said it was a good thing. Keith told her to keep their sexual relationship a secret. She should not even tell Allison, because Allison would get jealous. Nicole was only allowed to tell Allison about it toward the end. On a walk at V-week, Keith told Nicole that she could live an interesting life, or end up with a white picket fence.

After that V-week, Nicole went on a camping trip out west with her family. She brought along an old friend from LA. Nicole “talked around things” that were happening in her life, but it was enough to prompt her friend to tell her, ‘I don’t care how special this guy thinks you are. If you are uncomfortable, you don’t have to have sex with him.’ Thinking of the collateral, Nicole protested, “You don’t understand.”

Nicole did express not being happy about sex with Keith. Sometimes she would have a meltdown, and Keith would look her in the eye and say: I don’t need you. I am choosing you. There are plenty of beautiful women I can have sex with.


Keith told Nicole she needed to be broken in order for him to rebuild her into a strong woman. Sometimes Nicole felt that she was breaking. She didn’t want to break. It was scary. It was constantly about trust. She was giving in to things but sometimes a voice in her head said ‘no!’

Sometimes Nicole tried to make the best of things. There were times when she didn’t want to fight anymore. At those times, she would be more affectionate to Keith, calling him ‘love.’ She knew her job was to be supportive. After all, Keith’s job was very difficult. Everyone needed something from him.

Keith asked for a one-year commitment, after which he would help her find a partner if she wanted. Nicole thought she could get through one year. She tried to trust Keith for one year, and make the best of things. When Nicole was upset or crying, Keith would say that this was exhausting on his body. Everyone wanted or needed something from him. He was constantly dealing with jealousy issues, or when he had to punish someone. In one encounter, Keith had just come back from punishing a slave. He didn’t want to do it, but he had to for her sake. Once, Keith said there was paddling. This exhausted Keith, because he hated to hurt anyone.

Keith mentioned Edgar Bronfman to Nicole. Not only was Edgar Bronfman not a fan of Keith’s, but someone who worked for Bronfman was out to get him. This was a really bad person, a “dark knight.” Keith also told Nicole that he had hired PI’s to follow the woman who was the mother of his child.

Nicole, stressed out from travelling and money problems, had a full-on breakdown in Keith’s library. Keith tried to calm her down. Finally, exasperated, he pulled a bag out of a drawer with $10,000 in it, in fifties and hundreds. “Here, will this help?” At first Nicole didn’t want it. Keith asked her, if you knew you had this, would it help? Keith told her she could use it for travelling expenses, and this did make Nicole feel better. He also gave her $1,000 to help with her rent. The money remained in the drawer, Nicole kept track of her travelling expenses, and only took what she spent on train or bus rides.

Ms. Penza asked if Nicole ever asked Keith to allow her to leave DOS. Nicole said she told Keith that she didn’t think her situation was right for her. Keith’s would often talk in stories. He told her the story of Billy Budd. Billy Budd was in the Navy. He was well liked, a great guy. Two other guys who were trouble-makers started a fight. Billy Budd stepped in to stop it, but in the scuffle, he accidentally killed an officer. The punishment for killing an officer was hanging. If they didn’t hang him, the Navy would not be following their code. They had to uphold their code, or everything would break down. Billy Budd dies. Keith said It didn’t matter if Keith liked Nicole; If she left, her collateral would have to be released. That’s the code that must be followed, or everything would break down. If Nicole left, it would destroy the whole thing.

After this conversion, Nicole was walking by herself through Clifton Park, evaluating her options. Option one, she could get fully on board. Option two, she could commit suicide, but this would hurt her family. Nicole is crying on the stand, as she thinks of this. Option three, witness protection. Maybe if she disappeared completely, they would feel they did not have to release her collateral. DOS wouldn’t have to be destroyed, like in the Navy analogy.

Keith gave Nicole another assignment. She was to seduce a young man named Robbie. Keith said Robbie was not a good guy, they needed to monitor him. Keith said Robbie was required to report to Lauren if he interacted with, or was interested in a girl. It was arranged that Nicole would ‘accidentally’ run into Robbie at a high-school running track, where Robbie was training to enter the Navy. Keith told her to wear pink shorts, because it was better if she looked innocent. Nicole did this. She used a fake name. A fake Facebook page, email, and alias phone number was created for her. The ruse worked. Robbie called her and asked her to run with him. Nicole says Robbie was a nice, cute guy. She was told to have no physical interaction with him. When Nicole told Keith she was nervous about this, Keith told her she was born to do this work. Keith wanted to know everything that happened with Robbie. He checked in constantly. Nicole figured out that Robbie was the son of Esther Chiappone, a long-time Nxivm member. Nicole didn’t like to lie, but Keith told her he understood her feelings, and he was really impressed with what Nicole was doing, because it would be so hard for him (Keith) to lie.

Eventually Nicole was supposed to hand Robbie over to someone else, but when that time came Robbie was just about to join the Navy, and he wasn’t interested in meeting anyone. At this time, Nicole was told to communicate to Robbie by text only. Nicole was told to goad and insult him. It was very important that Nicole not fail. Allison and Keith took to writing the texts themselves. But it didn’t work. Robbie was not interested in meeting anyone at that time.

India became another slave of Allison’s, and India and Nicole became close. Nicole felt somewhat relieved, she was not alone anymore. India was good at talking Nicole off the ledge, when Nicole became upset at the situation she was in. If Nicole threw a fit, or did something else wrong, both she and India would have to take a cold shower, or have their calories reduced. Nicole was typically thin, so her weight was not an issue. But India was trying to get down to 107 lbs, and she was on 500 calories a day until she did that. Nicole said it was really hard to watch how tough this was on India. India was on 500 calories a day the entire time Nicole knew her.

Nicole met more of Allison’s slaves. It was Nicole, India, Danielle, and Michelle. They would meet every Monday, the slaves on the floor, Allison sitting in a chair. The meetings were code-named “church.” Allison introduced what she called the “family photo.” It was a group photo. They would have to take all their clothes off, and look happy, and Allison would take the picture. Allison did not tell them these photos were being sent to Keith, but Allison slipped up once and they accidentally found out. Allison covered by saying that Keith could tell their state of mind by seeing the photos. Once Nicole saw Allison send the ‘family photo’ to Keith on her phone, and he replied back “All mine?” with a devil emoji.

Ms. Penza asked Nicole, how did these photos feel? Nicole said, “I absolutely hated it.” She was crying as she described that she felt she had no choice, she had to do it. It made her feel really unsafe. It could happen anywhere and at any time. Fully crying on the stand, Nicole said it felt horrible. She couldn’t say no, she had no control. You were just told you had to take off all your clothes. Still crying, Nicole described asking Allison, how is this empowering? How is it empowering to take off all your clothes for a man? “Explain this to me!” This is really degrading. Allison told her, “You don’t have to know the reasons.” It didn’t matter how Nicole felt.

The readiness drills intensified. All four slaves were responsible for each other. If there was no reply within 60 seconds, “we all failed together.” And they were all punished together.

Additional monthly collateral was demanded. Nicole felt furious. She had no choice. She felt more and more trapped. Every time a chink of light appeared, it was blocked out. “I hated it! I hated it!” If they didn’t provide additional collateral, their previous collateral would be released. If the additional collateral wasn’t all turned in by the first of the month, punishment was set up.

At one point a contract was presented, where the slaves essentially signed their lives away, agreeing to everything, and agreeing to pay one million dollars if they ever spoke out. Nicole felt, “This is really never going to end.” But Allison booked a play around that time, and the contract never came about.

For the additional collateral, Nicole wanted to keep her family out of it. Nicole and India gave Allison their credit card info, with a letter giving Allison authorization, if they ever broke their word. Nicole even promised her grandmother’s beautiful 1938 wedding ring would go as collateral.

One of Allison’s slaves, Michelle, had a family home in the Berkshires. This was supposed to be a bonding trip. They hiked, they made dinner. After a really nice day, Allison said this was not just a bonding trip. Nicole thought, Oh gosh, what’s coming? Allison had another assignment. She was going to take “a close up picture of all your pussies.” Nicole felt “No! Absolutely not!” There was a back and forth with Allison about this, that Nicole lost. They had just done the family photo and now they had to take off all their clothes again! They had to sit on the couch and spread their legs and Allison took the picture. After the slave Michelle took her turn, Allison looked at the picture and said it was a “beautiful cunt.” Nicole was grossed out by this, and really angry about what was happening. After all the photos were taken, Allison said to Nicole, “See? That wasn’t so bad.” Nicole did not reply. Allison made them talk about what they felt. Nicole didn’t speak. Not speaking was the only power she had. Allison said to her something like, ‘Oh, are you still throwing a fit over there?’ Allison made Nicole speak.

The slaves had nicknames. India was ‘the princess,’ Michelle was ‘the clown,’ and Nicole was ‘the brat.’

There were a couple of times when Nicole did formal work for Nxivm, critiquing Keith’s essays, and for Pam’s memorial service, transcribing Keith’s talks. She was not paid for this work.

Nicole was required to give sensitive information to Allison. One assignment was to text Allison a secret every hour. There was a 10-page sex survey, asking for their whole sexual history.

A slave named Jaye was India’s slave. When Ms. Penza asked her to describe Keith’s relation to Jaye, Nicole said to Penza, great grand master? grand grand master? What would you call it? Penza said, “You tell me.” Nicole laughed, everybody laughed.

Danielle was the first of Allison’s slaves to be branded, and it was done by a professional. Danielle was a doctor, and she was learning how to use the cauterizing pen to do the DOS brands herself. They all watched a video in which a man got his head branded in swirls. It was horrible, and gave them an idea of what they were in for.

Nicole was told by Allison that the lines in the brand represented the horizon, mountains, and water. It was air, earth and water, and sealed by the burning, with fire. Nicole believed that. During the branding ceremony, the slaves were naked, and Allison wore a white dress. They were instructed to say they were giving their lives to their master. They were told to ask to be branded by saying “Master, please brand me.” On a massage table, they were held down by the others, with their hands over their head. It was hard for Nicole to watch how much pain India was in. They were instructed to say something about showing their love through pain, a DOS concept. Nicole didn’t want to say it. Allison said they should think of her, Allison, during the pain. Nicole is thinking, “No fucking way!” Nicole sobbed as she described her branding. “It really really fucking hurt!” She found she wasn’t as strong as she thought she was, in trying to withstand the pain. Nicole disconnected from her body, laid still. Thinking, it will be over.

Afterwards, there was an adrenaline rush. “You kind of feel like, strong, in a weird way.” You can’t believe you just did it. Nicole felt she could make it like an ancient symbol of strength. Only later did she learn it was Keith’s initials.

Penza: Do you still have the brand? Nicole, in tears, “Yes. I do.”

There was pressure to recruit slaves. They were told to look for someone with a joy for life, a “sparkle in their eye.” They were to send pictures of possible candidates to Keith and Allison, to be OK’d by them beforehand.

Jaye, another actress from LA, was also taking The Source, the Nxivm acting curriculum. Jaye was in a tough position. She gave up everything to live in Albany, in a room in Allison’s house. She spent all her money moving, and was trying to make money through The Source. Nicole didn’t know anyone who made a living through The Source.

There was a pattern to Allison’s interaction with Jaye. First Allison would act really kind and loving, then she would undercut her. Once Jaye went to volleyball wearing no bra. Allison berated her that it was too sexy, it wasn’t OK to draw attention to your figure. There were mixed messages like this. They were losing weight to look good, and all these sexual things were happening.

Nicole became aware that people were leaving Nxivm. The first to leave was Mark Vicente. At first it was said that Mark left honorably, he just wanted to concentrate on other things. But soon, this changed, and Mark was said to be destructive. Mark Hildreth left. This was tough on Nicole, as he had gotten her into ESP. It wasn’t fair. Nicole wished she was him. Nicole heard that at a meeting, Sarah’s husband said he saw her brand, and all hell broke loose. Sarah left, giving up her collateral of her ownership of the Vancouver center.

In the courtroom, the defense objected to a question by Penza. On the stand, Nicole made a joke like she was making a ruling on this objection. Judge Garaufis took it in fine humor, saying to Nicole, “You can’t do that. You have your job and I have mine.” Everybody laughed.

India and Allison said Jaye had left. She had said she was visiting her sick grandmother, then she stopped responding to India. Then Jaye had talked to India’s mom.

Nicole said when Jay left, “It put that as a reality in my head.” Nicole started to pay attention to what was happening in Nxivm. Valerie left. Rachel left. Suki left. Suki’s leaving had a big effect on her, because Suki was in it as intensely as she was. That Suki could leave, mentally gave her strength.

Nicole tried to tell Allison again that she wanted to leave. Allison snapped back, “Why are you even still here?” Collateral was the reason. Allison said, what if your collateral was not released? Nicole thought, is this real?

Nicole went back to Brooklyn. “I didn’t yet have the courage to leave.” She took a first step by telling Allison she didn’t want to work for The Source anymore. That was OK with Allison.

There was a blog named FrankReport. It was a blog about DOS and the people in Nxivm. Nicole appeared on that blog. The article said that Nicole was a sex slave of Keith Raniere. Nicole says that gave her the extra bit of courage she needed. It was a flash of reality. She thought, “OK. No. No.” She didn’t join an empowerment group to become a man’s sex slave.

Now was the window to leave. Nicole wrote Allison that she was not doing this anymore. She made the letter nice, partly because of the collateral. And partly because she didn’t want to hurt Allison or India. Nicole: “I did not understand until later how abusive it had been.” Allison said there would be no release of collateral. But she pressured Nicole to come to Albany and tell everyone herself. She was disappointed Nicole did not tell Keith.

DOS was all about your word, your integrity. Nicole felt that going to Albany would be a way to leave with integrity, and to placate the situation (they had her collateral). Allison said she owed it to the girls and Keith.

Nicole rented a car for the trip. She wanted full control over the situation. Definitely no trying to get a ride to the train, as on previous trips. She’d told her roommate enough about the situation that the roommate took Allison’s address, and said she would stay up till Nicole got back to the house.

At Allison’s house, Michelle, Danielle, and India were on the floor. Allison told Nicole she must sit on a chair since she wasn’t one of them anymore. Nicole thought, OK, great. Each girl asked why she was leaving. It was to take control over her own life. Allison said her collateral would not be released. Allison said, look what you are doing to India, India hasn’t eaten because of this. India then said that was not entirely true. Allison said Nicole was breaking everything. ‘How can you live with yourself, how can you sleep at night. You gave your word.’ India made a comment that Keith needed collateral in order to trust people. Nicole just listened. In her head she was leaving. Allison had a set of Nicole’s house keys in Brooklyn. She threw them on the table. Nicole walked out.

Nicole now texted Keith. Keith pretended he got the time of her coming to Albany mixed up, and said she would have to wait until after volleyball. So Nicole waited, then Keith said he had a meeting. At 3 am, as Nicole was ‘done’ and driving away, Keith texted, ‘I’m just walking to you, but you seem angry.’ Nicole parked and met him. Keith said he could tell from her body language that she was really leaving. Keith said the girls were hurt. Then he asked if Nicole was going to give him back the money (that he had given her for transportation and once for rent.) Nicole said, ‘You gave it to me.” Keith: ‘I gave it to you as a lifetime partner and you are breaking that.’ Keith: Will I ever see you again? Nicole: No, probably not. Keith: Will I ever talk to you again? Nicole: No, probably not. Keith asked if Nicole would speak negatively about Nxivm. Nicole said no.

By now it was 5 am, and Nicole had been up for almost 24 hours. She was hungry, tired, and emotionally exhausted. But she had to get out of Albany.

She remembered Keith telling her, “You guys think you have it so bad, but this is nothing compared to other sub-cultures.” Nicole did not want to be in a sub-culture.

Nicole drove. Her roommate was waiting to make sure she got home safely. She was on the phone to her roommate as she went the last part of the drive home.

Nicole did not want to cause problems, it was still confusing. She told her parents about the collateral and how it affected her. Her godmother, a psychologist, was making Nicole not feel bad about what happened. She didn’t tell her parents about the sexual part. They found out when they read about it. Nicole put herself in therapy.

Monday will be cross-examination of Nicole. The next witness, expected on Monday, will be Jaye.

End of day 19.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 9, 2019 at 14:00

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.)


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