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Still awaiting sentencing, Keith Raniere and other Nxivm leaders are now being sued

[Sarah Edmondson vs. Keith Raniere]

After a highly-publicized trial that resulted in the conviction or guilty pleas of six Nxivm leaders who now await sentencing, they and numerous others are now facing another kind of fight in court.

Philadelphia attorney Neil Glazer has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs Sara Edmondson, Toni Natalie, Mark Vicente, 58 Jane Does, and 19 John Does against NXIVM members and entities. The defendents in the lawsuit are the six defendants convicted in the criminal prosecution — Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Clare Bronfman, Allison Mack, and Kathy Russell — as well as numerous others: Sara Bronfman, Karen Unterreiner, Dr. Brandon Porter, Dr. Danielle Roberts, Daniella Padilla Bergeron, Rosa Laura Junco, Loreta J. Garza Davila, Monica Duran, Nicki Clyne, the Nxivm Corporation, Executive Success Programs Inc., Ethical Science Foundation and First Principles.

The complaint alleges that Nxivm “functioned as both a Ponzi scheme and a coercive community. Defendants exerted power over the Plaintiffs; took their money; made it financially, physically and psychologically difficult, and in some cases impossible, to leave the coercive community; and systematically abused Plaintiffs physically and emotionally.” Personal benefits to the defendants included “enriching themselves; wielding power over others; advancing in the perverse social order they created; and enhancing their own feelings of self-esteem.”

Nxivm is described as “far more than simply a personal improvement program”, using pyramid schemes and MLM techniques to induce their members to recruit new members in order to advance to a level where they could earn commissions and make a living themselves. However, Nxivm made this an unattainable goal because “the Defendants continually manipulated the program requirements, expanded the required curriculum, and graded most of the students as failures who needed to work harder and take more of Nxivm’s expensive courses.” Most of the earnings went to the inner circle. (This contention is supported by the Mark Vicente’s testimony in Raniere’s trial that even as the owner of a Nxivm center, “We were always running close to red all the time.”)

The lawsuit tracks some of the untruthful claims made by Nxivm:

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Keith Raniere is the world’s smartest man, “speaking in complete sentences at age one, mastering college level mathematics in two days at age eleven, winning championship judo and track tournaments, and graduating college with three degrees.”

The “tech” can cure medical conditions, including Tourette’s syndrome.

Nancy Salzman had a background as a psychiatric nurse. In fact, Salzman had no such background or experience.

Nxivm’s form of psychotherapy, known as Exploration of Meaning, or EM, (sometimes touted as the “good” part of Nxivm), is described as producing “disturbing alterations in the subjects’ thinking, behavior, and emotional experience.” Once the victims’ trust was gained, reducing them to a highly vulnerable state, they were further abused by being constantly told that they were failing in their goals, and not working hard enough on their “issues.” Therefore they needed to take more courses and more EM’s. The victims were then exploited for financial gain. “This included coercing members into working for the Defendants on “exchanges” in which they would be severely undercompensated or even uncompensated for their labors, but for which they supposedly would earn credits toward the additional expensive courses and EMs that they were assured would improve their lives.”

There were serious consequences for dropping out of the group. “Quitting was failure and would result in immense shame and humiliation.” Moreover, leaving would expose the victims to shunning, being labeled a psychopath, losing their livelihood and all their friends and community. Not only did their participation in Nxivm leave victims impoverished and without resources to start a new life, but walking away could expose them to malicious litigation.

There is a long section on DOS and the trap of collateral, the special women’s group that was such a disturbing focus of the trial. DOS is depicted as a “severely abusive environment, which included caloric deprivation, sleep deprivation, arduous physical labor, performance of menial tasks, and a variety of punishments for any failure to fully comply with their masters’ commands.” . . . “Not a single DOS member understood when she gave that first collateral that she was signing up for a life of servitude and sexual slavery under a cruel grandmaster and his circle of mistresses.” The lawsuit contains an account of the misogynistic philosophy in Nxivm. “Women were taught, in expensive 8-day intensives, that they were inferior, dishonest, untrustworthy, and genetically and evolutionarily predisposed to subservient roles. In this warped natural order, women were monogamous while men, by nature’s design, were polygamous. This led to domestic abuse, destroyed marriages and relationships, and a community in which women were particularly traumatized.” (So Raniere was really helping women by preventing them from being traumatized by their ignorance of their own inferiority.)

The lawsuit goes over Nxivm’s history of vexatious litigation, stating, “Numerous Plaintiffs suffered in silence for years, even avoiding cooperation with law enforcement authorities once it became known that the federal government was investigating Defendants. Only now, after the guilty pleas and convictions of a number of the Defendants, do Plaintiffs feel safe enough to come forward and assert their claims. So great was the fear generated by Defendants, that Plaintiffs believe there are still many victims and witnesses hiding in the shadows, frightened at the prospect of seeing their lives further destroyed if they come forward and assert their rightful claims in this or any other legal proceeding.”

The FrankReport quoted attorney Neil Glazer, who said, “Nobody should ever feel afraid to come forward after being victimized. We should have zero tolerance for that.” The FrankReport adds\ed, “Although Sarah Edmondson and two other outspoken Nxivm victims, Toni Natalie and Mark Vicente, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the complaint was filed on behalf of 58 Jane Does and 19 John Does – persons who, according to Glazer, ‘fear both the defendants’ retaliation and society’s negative judgment of things that, quite frankly, society should start trying harder to understand. This can happen to anyone, and it has.'”

— Dianne Lipson

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