The stripe path: How to make your way up in NXIVM

Members can rise within the organization or move up the “stripe path” by enrolling in more classes and recruiting new participants.

CBC's podcast Uncover: Escaping NXIVM is out now

Members of the so-called self-help organization NXIVM — Nxians — are required to wear a coloured sash around their necks during class. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

A so-called self-help group in upstate New York — that at one point had a wing in Vancouver — is accused of being cult-like and is engrossed in allegations of sex trafficking.

The leader of the alleged cult Keith Raniere and other members, including Smallville actress Allison Mack and Seagram's heiress Clare Bronfman, have been charged with offences related to the operation of the secretive group.

CBC's investigative podcast Uncover: Escaping NXIVM reveals the inner workings of the group.

What is NXIVM?

NXIVM is a purported self-help organization based near Albany, N.Y., which markets personal and professional development workshops called Executive Success Programs (ESP). It operates in a hierarchical structure, using a sash system called the "stripe path" to signify ranks in the organization.

What is the "stripe path?"

All participants are required to wear a coloured sash around their necks during class. Similar to the belt system in martial arts, each colour represents a certain level (e.g. new students wear white). They must earn four white stripes on their sashes before advancing to the next colour level. Members can rise within the organization or move up the "stripe path" by enrolling in more classes and recruiting new participants.

Keith Raniere (White sash)

Co-founder of NXIVM Keith Raniere is accused of leading a cult that recruited women as sex slaves and branded them with his initials. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Known as "Vanguard" to followers, Keith Raniere is the co-founder of NXIVM. In March 2018, Raniere was arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to commit forced labour. He is accused of creating a secret society within NXIVM called Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), which roughly translates to "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions." Under the guise of female empowerment, DOS allegedly recruited women to be Raniere's sex slaves and branded them with his initials. Raniere pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Nancy Salzman (Gold sash)

Nancy Salzman worked with Keith Raniere on NXIVM since 1998. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Known as "Prefect" to members, Nancy Salzman is the president of NXIVM. The former nurse — a practitioner of hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming — co-founded NXIVM with Raniere in 1998.

Lauren Salzman (Green sash, four stripes)

Lauren Salzman recruited her friend Sarah Edmondson into DOS, a secret society in NXIVM that allegedly enslaved women. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman's daughter, is a high-ranking NXIVM member. In January 2017, Salzman flew from Albany to Vancouver to convince her friend Sarah Edmondson to join DOS, allegedly pitching it as a secret female empowerment group that would offer an opportunity for mentorship and growth.

Allison Mack (Orange sash, one stripe)

Allison Mack faces sex trafficking and related charges for her alleged involvement with DOS. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Allison Mack is a former actress, best known for her role in the television show Smallville. In April, she was arrested on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labour conspiracy, for her alleged involvement with DOS. She was released on $5 million bond and placed under house arrest in California while awaiting trial.

Sara and Clare Bronfman (Green sash/Orange sash, two stripes) 

The Bronfman sisters are heiresses to the Seagram liquor empire. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Sara and Clare Bronfman are daughters of the late billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr., who was a chairman of the liquor company Seagram and president of the World Jewish Congress. Over the years, the sisters have allegedly used millions of their family's fortune to finance NXIVM ventures.

Clare Bronfman was charged with racketeering in the United States in connection with NXIVM.

Sarah Edmondson (Green sash)

Sarah Edmondson left the organization after being branded as part of an initiation ceremony for DOS, a secret society within NXIVM. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Actress Sarah Edmondson left NXIVM in 2017 and has become an outspoken critic of the organization. She first got involved in 2005 and quickly climbed the ranks as a top recruiter and coach, opening ESP's only Canadian centre in Vancouver by 2009. In January 2017, Edmondson says she was recruited into DOS by Lauren Salzman, being told she would be Salzman's slave, and Salzman her master. In order to join, Edmondson was required to hand over damaging personal information as collateral. Two months later, she says she attended an initiation ceremony near Albany where she and four other DOS slaves were branded with a symbol that incorporated Raniere's initials. Edmondson left NXIVM shortly thereafter.

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