A former “slave” with alleged New York sex cult NXIVM testified against the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, before a U.S. district court in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Sylvie, a 32-year-old British woman, said that Raniere, 58, forced her into sex acts and took pictures of her naked after declaring that he was her “grand master.”
“We were taught that women were self-absorbed, narcissistic,” she told the jury. “I feel like in some ways that was the worst part of it for me.”
During her time with NXIVM, Sylvie testified, she joined a secret sorority known as DOS, where she was branded with Raniere’s initials and required to serve as a “slave” to a woman named Monica. As part of the ceremony, she was made to vow to serve her “master” for the rest of her life, and to wear a necklace described as a “dog collar.”
Raniere, prosecutors said, manipulated female members of the cult for “sex, power and control” by repeatedly emphasizing that he was “the smartest, most ethical person in the world” before using “shame and humiliation to break people down.” Among his alleged victims were three Mexican sisters who Raniere had offered to tutor but instead held captive and forced into sexual relationships. The youngest of the sisters, Camilla, was just 15 when Raniere allegedly had sex with her and took pictures of her body as “souvenirs.”
“The photographs didn’t just serve his sexual needs, he used them to blackmail,” said assistant U.S. attorney Tanya Hajjar, adding that they had recovered pictures of Camilla from Raniere’s computer.
Raniere stands charged with sex trafficking, racketeering, sexual abuse of a minor and extortion, among other crimes. If found guilty on all charges, he could face a possible sentence of life in prison.
For more background on the New York trial, watch the CBC News video below: