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NXIVM founder Keith Raniere (YouTube / ABC News)

‘The Vanguard’

Leader of ‘self-help’ group arrested for allegedly branding women and blackmailing them into sex

By WITW Staff on March 27, 2018

Keith Raniere, the leader of NXIVM, a so-called “self-help” group that specifically targets women, was apprehended in Mexico on charges of branding women with his own initials and coercing them into having sex with him. He’s since reportedly been transported to Texas where he is in custody.

Raniere, who is known to followers as “the Vanguard,” was found in a luxury gated community near Puerto Vallarta whose villas cost up to $10,000 a week — a seemingly unlikely hiding place for a man who had claimed for years to possess no money at all. According to federal prosecutors, Raniere had been living on the property with several women, who later engaged authorities in a high-speed car chase after the fugitive guru was taken from the villa.

The criminal complaint accused Raniere of having sex with “a rotating group of 15 to 20 women” who were “not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationship with Raniere.” The complaint further alleges that these women were coerced into having sex with the so-called guru through brainwashing and blackmail.

In October, The New York Times reported on five women who said they were branded on their pubic regions with a cauterizing pen after being asked to join a secret sorority within NXIVM called DOS, which reportedly stands for “dominus obsequius sororium” — Latin for “master over the slave women.” In November, actress Sarah Edmondson, a former NXIVM member, spoke out about going through an “inhumane” branding process that she said hurt “worse than childbirth,” and revealed that the branding actually featured Raniere’s initials.

NXIVM founder NXIVM founder Keith Raniere pictured with former girlfriend Toni Natalie. (YouTube / ABC News)

According to former NXIVM publicist Frank Parlato, slaves were required to provide “collateral” in the form of nude pictures and confessions to crimes and other “damning stories” in order to ensure their loyalty. According to the criminal complaint, DOS operated as a pyramid scheme with “levels of ‘slaves’ headed by ‘masters’” in which slaves also became masters by recruiting their own slaves who would be subservient to them as well as those above them in the DOS pyramid. The slave women were also required to keep a strict diet — a stipulation that the criminal complaint alleges was required because “Raniere is known to sexually prefer women who are exceptionally thin.”

Below, watch an ABC News profile of women who have been involved with NXIVM and managed to escape. In the report, Elizabeth Vargas talked to Edmondson and Toni Natalie, Raniere’s former girlfriend who said when their relationship eroded and she would tell him that she didn’t want to have sex with him, “he would rape me.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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