Sex cults? Human experiments? Fear studies? What the fuck is going on in upstate New York?
Well, there’s this cult-like self-help group known as NXIVM (pronounced Nex-e-um), which is based out of Albany but has chapters across the country. On its official website, NXIVM is described as, “a community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human.” Apparently finding out what it means to be human includes seeing how one reacts to watching videos of rape and dismemberment, but hold that thought.
Keith Raniere, NXIVM founder, photo courtesy of the New York Times
The leader of NXIVM is a man named Keith Raniere, 57, known within the group as “Vanguard.” Like most cult leaders, Raniere doesn’t have a great reputation. He’s known to be extremely manipulative and abusive, and clearly has no respect for women. Rainere has allegedly maintained a rotation of 15 to 20 women he’s had active intimate relationships with, and it is required that the women remain sexually faithful to him. NXIVM promotes men having multiple sexual partners while women must remain faithful to one man.
Now that you have a better understanding of the vibe of this cult — I mean community — let’s discuss the controversy that brought NXIVM national attention last fall. It came to light that female members of the community were being asked to enter a “secret sisterhood” with the purpose of empowering women, but, not surprisingly, these poor women got far more than they bargained for. Red flag number one is that the women who were to be initiated into the group were referred to as “slaves.” The women also had to provide naked photographs or other incriminating material that could be used as collateral should the existence of the group be exposed. As if all this isn’t bad enough, they were also told they would be given a small tattoo as part of the initiation. Instead, their naked bodies were held down for 20-30 minutes while they were branded with a symbol using a cauterizing device. The symbol contains Raniere’s initials.
Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone
Raniere was arrested in March, charged with sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy. If convicted, he faces a potential life sentence.
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the rape and dismemberment videos (aka yes, this story gets worse). Not surprisingly NXIVM has made headlines again last week when the resident physician of the group, Dr. Brandon Porter, 44, was charged by a state oversight board for conducting illegal human experiments.
The state Office of Professional Medical Conduct has charged Porter with moral unfitness, gross negligence and gross incompetence, as well as other charges. According to the OMPC, Porter allegedly showed “human subjects an actual video of the horrific and brutal murders and dismemberment of four women by machetes; and violent film clips, including a male African American being viciously stomped by a Nazi; a conscious male being force to eat a portion of his own brain matter; and graphic gang rape.” Holy shit.
Jennifer Kobelt, a former NXIVM member, is one of the people Porter performed his experiments on. She claims Porter filmed her as he forced her to watch disturbing rape and dismemberment videos for a study he was conducting on fear. According to Kobelt, this “fright study” may have been performed on as many as 100 people. “He continued to film my reaction for at least 10 minutes as I just sat there, dry heaving like I was going to puke and crying very hard,” reports Kobelt. Kobelt reported Porter’s unethical actions to the OMPC back in September, but was told “the issues you have described are not medical misconduct.”
Fortunately, Porter was recently charged by the OMCP even though they originally shrugged off the claims against him. He has a hearing scheduled for June 27th and faces having his medical license revoked or suspended.
Featured photo courtesy of The Vigilant Citizen