Lauren Salzman has acknowledged that she was a member of NXIVM, a shadowy, cult-like group whose leader is charged with sex trafficking. Salzman was arrested last year; her trial is currently underway in federal court in Brooklyn. Recently, court documents revealed that Salzman was a member of NXIVM’s inner circle. Salzman also told the court that she deliberately kept her own, personal female slave locked in a private room for two years.
In 2018 NXIVM’s leader, Keith Raniere, was arrested in Mexico after authorities said he was coercing his followers into becoming “slaves” to him and to other leaders of the group. He is charged with human trafficking, child sex trafficking, and other crimes. You can read the arrest warrant for NXIVM’s leader, Keith Raniere, which summarize the charges against him here.
The actress Allison Mack, known for her role on Smallville, was arrested in April for her connection to NXIVM. And Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman was also arrested in connection with her relation to NXIVM.
Here’s what you need to know about Lauren Salzman:
1. Salzman Held a Woman Hostage for Two Years & Threatened to Have Her Deported to Mexico if She Didn’t Follow Orders
Lauren Salzman told a judge in Brooklyn federal court that she had “knowingly and intentionally” kept a woman prisoner in a room in upstate New York. Salzman referred to the woman as “Jane Doe 4” and said that she’d made the woman into her own personal slave, who had to carry out all of Salzman’s orders. Salzman said she’d kept Jane Doe 4 a hostage between March 2010 and April 2012.
Salzman also said that she’d kept a threat hanging over the woman’s head. She said that she had threatened to support Jane Doe 4 to Mexico if she didn’t do her work and obey all of Salzman’s orders.
During the hearing, Salzman also said she wanted to apologize for what she called her “poor decision making.” She told the judge, “I’m very sorry for my poor decision-making and decisions that result in the harm to others and not the just victims in this case but to hundreds of members of our community and their friends and families as well.”
2. Salzman’s Mother, Nancy, Co-Founded the NXIVM Cult
Lauren Salzman, 42, is the daughter of Nancy Salzman, 64, who is the co-founded of NXIVM. Nancy Salzman has pleaded guilty to racketeering and broke down crying in court as she apologized for getting Lauren involved in the cult. “I want you to know I am pleading guilty because I am, in fact, guilty,” she said in Brooklyn federal court. “I accept that some of the things I did were not just wrong, but sometimes criminal. I justified them by saying that what we were doing was for the greater good. I am deeply sorry for the trouble I caused my daughter, the pain I caused my parents.”
Nancy Salzman co-founded the cult along with Keith Raniere. The group originally pitched itself as a self-improvement group, offering seminars on self-help. But authorities say that Raniere made his followers recruit women to act as his sexual partners; he allegedly maintained a rotating group of 15 to 20 partners. The group is also charged with sex trafficking — and authorities say that they branded Raniere’s initials onto women’s genital areas.
A warrant for the arrest of Keith Raniere, NXIVM’s founder and leader, was filed on February 14, 2018. You can read the warrant here. Federal authorities charge that Raniere was knowingly involved in a sex trafficking operation involving at least two women. The women (referred to as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2) were transported across state lines and were forcibly coerced into engaging in “one or more commercial sex acts.”
Authorities say that Raniere’s victims were “branded” in their genital areas using a cauterizing pen. The women were stripped naked and, in a procedure that lasted 20 to 30 minutes, were branded with Raniere’s initials while other members of the group recorded the ceremony. Raniere has admitted that the branding was done as a “tribute” to his status as leader. The warrant also says that since NXIVM’s founding, Raniere has maintained a “rotating group” of between 15 and 20 women with whom he has sexual relations. The women were not allowed to have sex with anyone besides Raniere, and they were not allowed to talk to anyone about their relationship with Raniere. Apparently NXIVM’s “curriculum” teaches its followers that men need to have multiple sexual partners and women need to be monogamous.
3. Salzman Was Allegedly a ‘Slave’ to the NXIVM Leader, Keith Raniere & Pledged Lifelong Loyalty to Him
Lauren Salzman has confessed to being a member of NXIVM’s inner circle, a mysterious group within the cult that was known as DOS. DOS members allegedly branded women who were to serve as slaves for Keith Raniere, the group’s leader and co-founder. The leaders of DOS also tested the other group members and did whatever was necessary to keep them in line. Members of DOS had to keep to a strict diet and perform “readiness drills” and other acts of obedience; they were often expected to have sex with Raniere.
Court documents reveal that Lauren Salzman was both a “master” in the group and a slave to Raniere herself. She and Allison Mack, the Smallville star, swore an oath of loyalty to Keith Raniere.
4. Salzman Once Said NXIVM Helped Her Deal with Her Anger & Understand Gender Roles Better
XIVM members are charged with racketeering and sex trafficking — but until recently, many of those same members insisted that their group wasn’t a sex cult at all. Instead, they said that NXIVM was a self-help group which had helped them to improve their lives and overcome negative emotions. Just two years ago, several members of the group sat down with a New York Times reporter for a carefully managed interview about their roles in the group. Salzman was one of those members. She told the reporter that NXIVM had helped her to a better understanding of gender roles and had helped many people to overcome their anger. She said:
“We were so angry at each other, both genders. Women feel oppressed, and we have so many examples of how that’s true. And the men would try to stick up for themselves and we would all attack them. … We cut them off constantly just because we’re excited and impulsive. But we didn’t understand that they really felt unheard or disrespected or uncared for. Or withholding sex. We make them work for it and they just don’t understand and they feel fearful and unaccepted.”
5. NXIVM Was Founded in 1998 & Used to Offer Self-Help Seminars
Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman founded NXIVM back in 1998. At that time, it wasn’t called NXIVM; it was a self-improvement group known as Executive Success Programs, Inc, or ESP. The group held workshops which promised to “actualize human potential.” Then in 2003, Raniere created NXIVM (pronounced “Nexium”) as an umbrella group to include ESP and the other organizations he was involved in.
The group lured a number of celebrities and wealthy individuals into its inner circle. The actress Allison Mack, known for her role on Smallville, joined the group. (She was arrested last year in connection with the group.) Clare and Sara Bronfman, who are heirs to the billion dollar Seagram’s fortune, also joined the group. Clare Bronfman is awaiting trial on charges that she helped bankroll the cult.
Sara discovered ESP, as NXIVM was known, in 2002. She was 25 at the time and at a loose end; she had taken some college classes at NYU, but other than that, she was known as a bit of a party girl. That fall, she tried one of ESP’s “intensive” workshops (the cost was about $7,500 for five days) and was immediately hooked. That same year, Clare joined the group. She soon abandoned her previous career as a competitive horse jumper, sold her stable and horses, and dedicated herself to NXIVM.
In 2004, the Bronfman sisters presented NXIVM with a check for 20 million dollars to fund Raniere’s “scientific research.” From 2005 to 2007, the Bronfmans gave Raniere more than 65 million dollars to help cover the NXIVM leader’s stock market losses.