BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - Providing intimate details on a secret sex cult within the purported self-help group NXIVM, a woman who pleaded guilty earlier this year to being a slave master took the stand Friday against her indicted former lover, Keith Raniere.
Lauren Salzman, 42, testified that she and the other female “first-line masters” in the cult regularly took full-frontal group photos they sent to Raniere. Sometimes they also sat naked before him on the floor as he perched, clothed, in a chair.
Raniere, 58, is the only defendant in the bizarre case to fight the charges. Prosecutors put the former NXIVM leader at the top of a secret society within his organization called DOS, or “The Vow,” where women were branded with his initials along their pubic lines and forced into sexual relationships.
Salzman said DOS members had to show those brands in the nude photos for Raniere, while otherwise looking “uniform” and “happy.”
Each first-line master reported directly to Raniere, whom they called “Master,” and had at least one slave underneath her, Salzman said. Apart from herself, Salzman said there were seven other members of the first line: a woman named only as Camilla, Daniela Padilla, Nicki Clyne, Loreta Garza, Rosa Laura Junco, Monica Duran and Allison Mack, a former actress best known for her role on the television series “Smallville.”
Mack and Salzman are the only first-line master who were indicted alongside Raniere. They both pleaded guilty, as did Salzman’s mother, NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman; bookkeeper Kathy Russell and Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor empire.
Clyne is a television actress as well, part of the cast of “Battlestar Galactica,” and reportedly married Mack in 2017 at Raniere’s orders.
Lauren Salzman wore all black in court today, sporting neatly combed brown hair to her chin.
Choking up on the witness stand, Salzman spoke about her desire to have children with Raniere, saying they became sexual partners in 2001 after she rose in NXIVM’s ranks during a 20-year stint with the group.
Even though Raniere was sleeping with multiple other women, Salzman said he required her to be loyal to only him, and dangled the opportunity of pregnancy to entice her to stay in the relationship.
Giving more insight to Raniere’s jealousy, she described how he confronted her once, sometime around 2011, after one of the group’s regular all-night volleyball games.
Salzman said Raniere had recently informed her that it was a good time for him to try to father a child with Salzman, but that Raniere was furious to see her “roughhousing” with another man during volleyball.
“You straddled him,” he told her, quoting a woman named Marianna as having called Salzman “easy.”
Marianna was also a member of Raniere’s trusted inner circle and eventually bore one of his children.
Salzman said she stayed home for an entire weekend and typed out a 7-page apology letter and plan for winning back Raniere. Jurors saw their email exchanges, which boasted the subject line “a sword in a field,” and the plan, which included bullet points like “Build data for others that I do not engage in relationships with men.”
The control Raniere exercised over her was all-consuming, Salzman said. She consulted him before seeking medical treatment or even traveling to see her grandparents.
“I considered him an authority on almost everything,” she said, recalling a story Raniere often told about walking in the rain with someone to show raindrops only fell on others, not on him.
Raniere dictated Salzman’s appearance as well, including her weight and how she groomed her pubic hair, she said.
“He told me a good weight for me would be about 100 pounds,” Salzman said.
She added that Raniere had told her, “If I loved and cared for him, I would care for his preferences.” Raniere preferred his women to have natural pubic hair, she said, because “it held the pheromones, and he liked that.”
Salzman also counseled other NXIVM women with whom Raniere had sexual relationships. “Many — most” of them expressed unhappiness with the relationship, Salzman told the jury. Her own nickname was “Forlorn,” a play on her first name, “because I was sad and suffering.”
Over the past week and a half of Raniere’s trial in Brooklyn, the jury has also heard testimony from a woman named Sylvie, who said she served as a slave to Monica Duran. Sylvie described being sexually assaulted by Raniere, but said she was not branded.
Earlier Friday, a technology officer for a company that sells sex toys testified about orders placed by DOS first-line master Daniela Bergeron, née Daniela Padilla.
Sean Welch, who works at XR LLC — which stands for “Extreme Restraints” — testified that Bergeron had ordered items like a full-sized “jail cell,” described as “a true piece of dungeon furniture;” a “remote puppy plug,” intended for a human anus and sporting an upwardly curved puppy tail; and a “hanging rubber strap cage,” described as a Chinese finger trap for “bondage play.”
The items are all legal and can be used either consensually or not. It remains to be seen how exactly they relate to the case.
Though Salzman referred to a dungeon as one of several topics that first-line masters discussed during regular meetings at their “sorority house,” she did not elaborate on it further.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar conducted Salzman’s questioning today.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.