Shocking allegations about Capital Region group some call 'cult'

October 18, 2017 06:44 PM

ALBANY - There’s shocking allegations about a group that's long been at the center of controversy in our area. That group is NXIVM. Based in Albany, it was founded in 1998 by Keith Raniere.

It's been called a successful executive coaching program by some and a cult by others. A New York Times report out Wednesday says some female members are called "slaves" and have been branded with Raniere's initials.


This had us wondering what would compel anyone to join an organization that brands them or abuses others? A local psychiatrist says these types of groups prey on certain people and take advantage of their vulnerabilities.

It is a question that people ask all the time. It's not that people want to be branded and abused -- but rather they feel the cult is the key to what they need to make them whole.

The door was wide open at the NXIVM office in Colonie, when NewsChannel 13 showed up to ask questions. They told us to wait outside. Moments later, someone shut the door without saying a word.

We went there to see if anyone would defend allegations in the New York Times by women who say they were branded to join a sisterhood within the organization.

The women described they were instructed to say: "Master please brand me, it would be an honor," before the room was filled with burning flesh.

They told the paper they were required to give a nude photograph and warned the photos may be released publicly if they talked about the group.

"What is happening essentially is that these organizations and these people leverage your lack of an identity, your lack of a self into their own interest," explained Psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Ferraioli.

He says it may seem strange that someone who appears to be fine and quite successful would join an organization that would brand or abuse them. However, he says they can't help it.

"Are you the type to idealize something or somebody? Because if you are, you're vulnerable," noted Ferraioli.

Simply put, he says it stems from childhood where the adult is trying to fill an emptiness that was left behind. A cult takes advantage of that and makes you feel that they're the savior.

"Once you've decided that they are the key to my life, to my healing. They are the savior for me. You at that point are very much vulnerable to doing whatever it is they want you to do," pointed out Ferraioli.

Dr. Ferraioli says the person who joins a cult basically has the same disease as the one who creates it.


WNYT Staff

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