Former 'sex slave' of self-help guru testifies at his trial


NEW YORK (AP) — At meetings with self-help guru Keith Raniere, members of a secret society for female followers sometimes called "The Vow" would follow a protocol that drove home his standing as their "master," one of the women testified today at Raniere's sex-trafficking trial.

Lauren Salzman told the jury she and the other women who were branded with Raniere's initials "would be totally nude and sit on the floor below him." He, on the other hand, would remain clothed as he spoke to them, she added.

Prosecutors in federal court in Brooklyn used Salzman's testimony to give jurors an inside look into a bizarre alternate universe they say Raniere created as head of NXIVM, the upstate New York group that offered expensive, multi-step educational programs but was also seen by many as a cult.

Raniere has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of using his teachings to manipulate and exploit women as his "sex slaves." His attorneys have insisted his interactions with the women, however unusual, were consensual.

Salzman, 42, took the stand after pleading guilty in March for her role in the sorority of branded women who worshiped Raniere as their "master." She was testifying as part of a plea deal in which she admitted to charges accusing her of making a lower-ranking member of the group stay inside a bedroom for two years as a form of discipline.

Today, Salzman identified actress Allison Mack as a high-ranking member of the secret subgroup. Mack, best known for her role as the friend of a young Superman in the "Smallville" series, has pleaded guilty to participating in the collection of embarrassing material from followers – called "collateral" – that the group threatened to make public if they ever tried to defect.

After the group was formed in 2017, Salzman and the other members would begin meetings, with Raniere absent, by taking nude group photos of themselves and sending them to him, Salzman said. They were instructed to make sure their brands were visible and that they had to "look happy," she said.

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