As seen in Season Two of the HBO docuseries THE VOW
They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. The more secretive those connections are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult.
Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labor. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a cult run by Keith Raniere and many enablers. Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman uncovers how dozens of women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities instead were blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. Don't Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM's rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world.
Investigative journalist Berman debuts with the definitive look at the NXIVM cult, which victimized dozens of women for more than a decade at its headquarters in Albany, N.Y. Berman uses her access to former NXIVM members to detail the organization's crimes, which included the sexual abuse of teenagers, slavery, and the branding of members with the initials of its sadistic leader, Keith Raniere. Raniere founded NXIVM as a self-help resource in 1998, promising those who joined its program happiness and purpose; his pitch ensnared such prominent people as heirs to the Bronfman fortune, a future U.S. surgeon general, and executives at Warner Music and Black Entertainment Television. Eventually, law enforcement learned of the disturbing secret side of Raniere's operation and the multiple victims traumatized and brainwashed by Raniere and his enablers. In 2019, Raniere was convicted in federal court of sex trafficking, racketeering, and fraud, and in 2020 received a sentence of 120 years in prison. Berman's rigorously sourced narrative brings this ber-creepy story to life, and by waiting to publish until after the conclusion of Raniere's trial, Berman has produced a more comprehensive account of the case than previous studies. This deep dive behind the headlines isn't to be missed.