700 days locked up in bedroom: self-help guru risks lifelong

A New York jury found the controversial self-help guru Keith Raniere (58) guilty of all charges. He ran a cult in which women were to have sex with him or were branded with his initials, US media report. He is now risking life.

Raniere is the co-founder of the self-help organization Nxivm. There was also a secret women’s club within that organization, where, according to former members, Raniere took the lead. He dominated the women, described by the prosecutors as sex slaves, as a cult leader.

To prove themselves, the women had to hand over incriminating material about themselves. For example, it was about nude photos or painful personal secrets. Thus, according to prosecutors, the women could be kept in line by humiliation and belittlement.

Locked up for 700 days

One of Raniere’s victims, whose name is kept secret for privacy reasons, described how she was locked up in a bedroom for more than 700 days. The self-help guru imposed that ‘punishment’ on her because she had shown interest in another man.

Another woman who was abused by Raniere tells how she was lured to a house and tied to a table blindfolded there. Another woman present in the home then, against her will, performed sexual acts with her.

“Smartest man in the world”

The prosecutors told the jury during the trial that Raniere, who was known as an innovator and was revered as ‘the smartest man in the world’, was, in fact, a creepy guy who could barely make it to school. Photographs of the women he abused, he held as a “trophy” for his sexual victories.

Prosecutor Richard Donoghue called Raniere a manipulator who “ruined marriages, careers, fortunes, and lives.” Raniere heard everything carefully, but unmoved. Even when, after barely five hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of sex trafficking and abuse.

Raniere managed to attract several famous women, such as actress Allison Mack and the wealthy Clare Bronfman. The authorities filed seven charges against Raniere, including extortion and possession of child pornography. He risks a life sentence. He will hear the punishment on 25 September.

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