Monthly Archives: August 2021

NXIVM and Other Cults

DOS brand as per Government Exhibit GX-352 in US v. Raniere, Source https://www.courthousenews.com/former-slave-master-describes-sex-cult-branding-ritual/, Author US Attorney’s Office, EDNY (PD as work product of federal govt.)

And Jesus answered and said to them:  ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’ ” (Matt. 24: 4-5).

NXIVM is old news.  Keith Raniere has joined the ranks of such infamous cult leaders as Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs, and David Koresh [1].

But the NXIVM phenomenon has lessons for us.  Here are a few:

1.  A charismatic leader may not be what he claims. 

All that glitters is not gold.

Though venerated as a virtual god, Keith Raniere was originally an Amway distributor [2A].  The self-proclaimed guru and life coach called himself the “smartest man in the world” when, in fact, he had difficulty completing college.

2.  The endorsement of celebrities is no guarantee of an organization’s trustworthiness.

NXIVM was supported by Seagrams heiresses, Clare and Sara Bronfman, to the tune of some $85 million [2B].

Among the celebrities who once endorsed NXIVM were actresses Allison Mack, India Oxenberg, and Sarah Edmondson [3].  Keith Raniere even appeared with the Dalai Lama.

3.  Hierarchy and ritual are no guarantees of an organization’s spirituality.

NXIVM had both.

4.  Finances often reveal the true nature of an organization.

Actions speak louder than words.  Lofty sounding goals are not enough.

Keith Raniere promised his followers they would change the world [2C].  Instead, Raniere’s actions confirmed his desire for sex, money, and power.

Legally, NXIVM was comprised of dozens of shell corporations, their finances dubious [2D].  Functionally, NXIVM was little more than a pyramid scheme, designed to bilk Raniere’s followers of their savings [2E].

A seemingly endless series of classes were heavily promoted. All promised self-knowledge and self-improvement, albeit at a cost.  Meanwhile, members often went unpaid for their labor.

Raniere’s earlier venture, Consumer Buyline (a multi-level marketing company) was shut down in 1993 after being investigated for fraud by 20 states.

5.  Excessive control is a major red flag.

There is a fine line between indoctrination and brainwashing; that line must not be crossed.

New members were introduced to NXIVM’s philosophy of “rational inquiry” at intensive, 14 hour-per-day seminars lasting more than 2 weeks.

Loyalty to NXIVM was emphasized over loyalty to family.  The dress, diet, and life decisions of members were all closely regulated by NXIVM.  Even the weight of members was monitored.

Other tactics employed at NXIVM included sleeplessness, isolation, starvation, corporal punishment, and coercion via blackmail.  Cult leaders Jim Jones and Charles Manson, also, used “love bombing” – excessive displays of attention and affection intended to overwhelm [5]. Continue reading

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Christianity, Justice, Law, Religion, sex trafficking, Slavery

Abandonment

Abandoned teddy bear, Author Ryan Hodnett (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Brittany Gosney, a 29 y.o. Ohio woman charged with murdering her 6 y.o. son James Hutchinson, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity [1]. 

In a confession now being contested, Gosney alleged that her boyfriend, James Hamilton, urged her to abandon all three of her children.  She proceeded to do this, leaving the children in a parking lot at Rush Run Wildlife Area.  The youngest grabbed the car door as Gosney gunned the engine, and was apparently dragged. 

Gosney turned the vehicle around to check on the boy, and found he was dead.  She then loaded the body and her two living children (7 y.o. and 9 y.o.) back into the car, and returned home.  Gosney and Hamilton later tossed the little boy’s remains into the Ohio River, and attempted to pass his absence off as a disappearance.

Abandonment

Child abandonment is the practice of relinquishing interest in and legal rights over one’s children in an illegal manner, the intention being never to resume guardianship [2A].  As in the Gosney case, this is often done in such a reckless way that the children’s welfare and their very lives are placed at risk.

The term “abandonment” is generally used to describe physical abandonment of a child.  It can, also, however, include severe neglect and emotional abandonment, as when parents fail to provide financial and/or emotional support to  minor children for a prolonged period of time.

Apart from the damage severe neglect can cause, this particular form of abandonment may expose a child to sexual abuse by other adults with whom the child then comes into contact.  It is not unheard of for addicted parents to trade their young children to sex traffickers in exchange for drugs. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Religion, sex trafficking, Sexual Abuse

Forbidden Music

Afghan women, Author Eric Draper (PD as federal work product)

Many fear the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will place in jeopardy the advances girls and women have made there in the past 20 years [1].

If the Taliban resumes control of the country (as now seems inevitable), women are likely again to be penalized for infractions such as failure to wear a burka, leaving home unaccompanied by a male, and adultery [2].  Even music will again be forbidden, since the Prophet Muhammad is thought by some to have criticized the use of musical instruments [3].

Punishments have, in the past, ranged from beating or flogging, by religious police, to death by stoning [4].

Radical Islam v. Christianity

The Taliban argues that the harsh restrictions placed on women are meant to revere and protect them.  Taliban leaders have, however, been known to engage in human trafficking, selling women into slavery and forced prostitution [5].

The contrast between Radical Islam and Christianity could not be more clear.

When Christ was confronted with a woman caught in adultery, He defended her against her accusers, then instructed her to go and sin no more (John 8: 3-11).

He…said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first’ ” (John 8: 7).

[1]  CNBC, “US withdrawal of troops puts Afghan women’s education in peril” by Richard Engel, 5/3/21, https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/05/03/u-s-withdrawal-of-troops-put-womens-education-in-peril.html.

[2]  Wikipedia, “Women in Afghanistan”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Afghanistan.

[3]  Wikipedia, “Islamic music”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_music.

[4]  Radio Free Europe Radio Library, “Afghan Rights Group Investigating Video of Woman Being Stoned to Death” by Frud Bezhan, 2/3/20, https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-rights-group-investigates-video-of-woman-being-stoned-to-death/30414665.html.

[5]  Time Magazine, “Lifting the Veil on Taliban Sex Slavery” by , http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,201892,00.html.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, sex trafficking, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Strength

Weakness vs. Strength - Our Side of Suicide

Image courtesy of Our Side of Suicide http://www.oursideofsuicide.com/2016/05/09/weakness-vs-strength/

Some abuse victims want as adults only to forget their past.  That is an entirely legitimate response, and their prerogative.

By contrast, a surprising number of us want to use our suffering to ease the suffering of others.  We want to make something purposeful – even beautiful – out of what was painful and ugly.  That is a lofty goal which may or may not be achievable [1].

In either case, a few things should be clear.

A Strong Spirit

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40: 29).

Those who somehow survive abuse – physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect or domestic violence – have a strong spirit.  This is true no matter the scars we carry forward from abuse or the fears abuse bequeathed to us. We would not otherwise be here.

To say that we are strong does not denigrate the abuse victims who did not survive.  Even heroes are mortal.  If anything, we are their witness regarding the horrors inflicted on abuse victims (not to mention the  long-term consequences of abuse).

Layers

Abuse can be multi-layered.  While we may consider a single individual responsible for our abuse, many are likely to have contributed to it.

The abuse of a first individual will begin the lesson that we are undeserving of love and concern.  As others follow in the same footsteps, we come to believe this untruth.

Then there are those in our lives who could have intervened, but for reasons of their own did not.  This is another aspect of the tragedy of abuse.  While a non-offending parent may wield less power in the family dynamic than an offending-parent, an adult is always more powerful than a child.

We had every right to look for rescue to the adults aware of our situation.

Excuses

And still we make excuses for the loved ones who abandoned, battered, and raped us.

They didn’t understand the harm they were doing.  They led hard lives, were under a great deal of strain.  It was our fault.  We deserved it.  We were disobedient, rebellious.  We expected too much.  We complained too often.  We were too pretty, too flirtatious.  Deep down, they “really” cared.

Excuse after excuse after excuse…none sufficient to justify abuse. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Child Identity Theft

Anthem Breach Notification (security breach reportedly exposing the data of tens of millions of children), Author Tony Webster of San Francisco, CA (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

We do not give it much thought, but child identity theft is a growing threat.

According to the FTC, 4%-6% of the identity theft complaints received from 2014 to 2016 involved minors [1A].  At least 1 million children were victimized last year [2].

Personal Data

Child identity theft occurs when personal data like a child’s date of birth or Social Security number is stolen for the purpose of fraud.

A Shadow Identity

A child’s credit history is unmarred, and likely to go unchecked for years.  Because of that, child identity theft may go undetected for an extended period.

During that time, thieves can use the child’s identity just as they would an adult’s.  They can obtain driver’s licenses, sign leases, establish utility service, open bank accounts, qualify for credit cards, and purchase vehicles or property – meanwhile racking up debt in the child’s name.

Having developed this “shadow identity”, criminals can then sell and resell the child’s identity.  At that point, the process starts all over again. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse