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. Actor and NXIVM recruiter Sarah Edmondson thought she was joining the organization's inner sanctum; instead, her peers held her down and filmed her as Raniere's initials were carved into her flesh.
Don't Call It a Cult shows these abuses looked very different from the inside, where women, and sometimes underage girls, initially received mentorship and protection. Through top experts on high-control groups, as well as the accounts of Raniere's former acolytes (Smallville actress Allison Mack; Maja Miljkovic; Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne), Berman explores the deep spiritual experiences that members of NXIVM's inner circle shared, and their strong resistance to leaving even months after the FBI made its first arrests. If any members became disillusioned or complained to the authorities, wealthy members with deep pockets dealt with the problem.
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.