Mark Vicente, formerly an official within the alleged Albany sex cult Nxivm, joined the chorus of ex-members testifying against ringleader Keith Raniere this week in a Brooklyn federal court.
On Thursday, Vicente choked up on the stand while detailing the hierarchical structure within the supposed self-help organization. Vicente said that members were made to believe that cults didn't exist—and were instructed to follow a set of organizational guidelines that he described as a "well-intentioned veneer cover[ing] a horrible evil."
In court, Vicente was asked to read from Nxivm's "Twelve Point Mission Statement" that Raniere, who they called "Vanguard," penned in 1998. The points include cryptic statements such as "tribute is a form of payment and honor" and "there are no ultimate victims; therefore, I will not choose to be a victim."
“It’s a fraud, it’s a lie,” Vicente said of the document, adding: "I'm ashamed I ever read it. It’s been used to hurt a great many people, well-intended to make a better world and wanting to improve themselves. This thing is evil.” During his time at Nxivm, Vicente said, the organization flat-out denied the term "cult." "They brought up the world 'cult,’ and said the word doesn’t exist,” he testified, noting that the organization believed that “there is no definition for it. Anyone who uses it is suppressive.”
During his testimony, Vicente also outlined the ranks within Nxivm. He said that people wore sashes denoting their status as prefect, proctor, or coach, and that moving up within the organization ("the stripe path") was possible through the likes of recruiting people to take classes, The New York Times reports. Additionally, he thought that the classes were a way that Raniere “played with our moral compass.”
Vicente also mentioned the existence of certain factions, such as the Society of Protectors, a group for men, and Jness, a group that that encouraged women to see themselves as victimizers capable of manipulating others.
A woman who went by Sylvie, formerly a part of Jness, gave a harrowing statement in court earlier this week. In her testimony, she explained how the organization routinely utilized a sexual coercion scheme, as well as blackmail, to keep people entangled within Nxivm. Raniere is currently charged with sex trafficking, several counts of fraud, forced labor conspiracy, and child pornography.
During the trial, Sylvie spoke about how Raniere took nude photos of her, which he allegedly did to other women as well. Currently, prosecutors are seeking a testimonial from a woman who says that Raniere began raping her in the early 1990s, starting when she was 12 years old.
Among Nxivm's many chilling allegations include accusations that Raniere had women branded with his initials, and kept people as "sex slaves" as they were cut off from the outside world. Vicente added that a tech company that Raniere helmed had cameras installed outside of the houses of Nxivm affiliates, a move that he thinks were explicitly for the purpose of "surveillance of us, members of the community," according to the Times.
High-ranking members of Raniere's inner circle, including co-founder Nancy Salzman, Smallville actress Allison Mack and Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman have pleaded guilty to charges one by one in recent months, leaving the founder on his own during the ongoing trial.
Vicente's testimony is set to continue on Monday.