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更新时间:2017-10-19 11:58:14 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded

ALBANY, N.Y. — Last March, five women gathered in a home near here to enter a secret sisterhood they were told was created to empower women.


To gain admission, they were required to give their recruiter — or “master,” as she was called — naked photographs or other compromising material and were warned that such “collateral” might be publicly released if the group’s existence were disclosed.


The women, in their 30s and 40s, belonged to a self-help organization called Nxivm, which is based in Albany and has chapters across the country, Canada and Mexico.


Sarah Edmondson, one of the participants, said she had been told she would get a small tattoo as part of the initiation. But she was not prepared for what came next.

其中一名参与者萨拉·埃德蒙森(Sarah Edmondson)说,有人告诉她,作为入会仪式的一部分,她要纹一个小的纹身图案。但接下来的事情让她始料未及。

Each woman was told to undress and lie on a massage table, while three others restrained her legs and shoulders. According to one of them, their “master,” a top Nxivm official named Lauren Salzman, instructed them to say: “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor.”

每人都被要求脱去衣服,在按摩床上躺下,另有三人按住她的腿和肩膀。据其中一位当事人说,她们的“主人”,一个名叫劳伦·萨尔兹曼(Lauren Salzman)的Nxivm高层头目吩咐她们说:“主人,请给我打上烙印,这是我的荣幸。”

A female doctor proceeded to use a cauterizing device to sear a two-inch-square symbol below each woman’s hip, a procedure that took 20 to 30 minutes. For hours, muffled screams and the smell of burning tissue filled the room.


“I wept the whole time,” Edmondson recalled. “I disassociated out of my body.”


Since the late 1990s, an estimated 16,000 people have enrolled in courses offered by Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um), which it says are designed to bring about greater self-fulfillment by eliminating psychological and emotional barriers. Most participants take some workshops, like the group’s “Executive Success Programs,” and resume their lives. But other people have become drawn more deeply into Nxivm, giving up careers, friends and families to become followers of its leader, Keith Raniere, who is known within the group as “Vanguard.”

自90年代末以来,估计有1.6万人参加了Nxivm开设的课程。该组织称,设计相关课程的目的是通过消除心理和情感障碍,促进更好的自我实现。大部分参与者参加了一些研讨班,比如该组织的“高管成功项目”(Executive Success Programs),然后继续自己的生活。但其他一些人被Nxivm进一步吸引,放弃自己的事业、朋友和家庭,成为其领袖基思·拉尼埃(Keith Raniere)的追随者。在该组织内部,拉尼埃被称作“先锋”。

Both Nxivm and Raniere, 57, have long attracted controversy. Former members have depicted him as a man who manipulated his adherents, had sex with them and urged women to follow near-starvation diets to achieve the type of physique he found appealing.


Now, as talk about the secret sisterhood and branding has circulated within Nxivm, scores of members are leaving. Interviews with a dozen of them portray a group spinning more deeply into disturbing practices. Many members said they feared that confessions about indiscretions would be used to blackmail them.


Mark Vicente, a filmmaker and former top Nxivm official, said that after hearing about the secret society, he confronted Raniere.

曾在Nxivm担任高层的电影工作者马克·维森特(Mark Vicente)说,听说该秘密社团后,他找过拉尼埃。

“I said ‘whatever you are doing, you are heading for a blowup,'” Vicente said.


Several former members have asked state authorities to investigate the group’s practices, but officials have declined to pursue action.


In July, Edmondson filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Health against Danielle Roberts, a licensed osteopath and follower of Raniere, who performed the branding, according to Edmondson and another woman. In a letter, the agency said it would not look into Roberts because she was not acting as Edmondson’s doctor when the branding is said to have happened.

今年7月,埃德蒙森向纽约州卫生署投诉了拉尼埃的追随者、执业骨疗师丹妮尔·罗伯茨(Danielle Roberts),据埃德蒙森和另一名女性说,给其身体打上烙印的就是罗伯茨。纽约州卫生署在一封信函中表示,它不会调查罗伯茨,因为在据称的打烙印过程中,她并不是以埃德蒙森的医师的身份行事。

Separately, a state police investigator told Edmondson and two other women that officials would not pursue their criminal complaint against Nxivm because their actions had been consensual, a text message shows.


State medical regulators also declined to act on a complaint filed against another Nxivm-affilated physician, Brandon Porter. Porter, as part of an “experiment,” showed women graphically violent film clips while a brain-wave machine and video camera recorded their reactions, according to two women who took part.

纽约州的医疗监管者还拒绝就另一名隶属于Nxivm的医师布兰登·波特(Brandon Porter)受到的投诉采取行动。据参与一场“实验”的两名女性称,实验过程中,波特曾为女会员播放极其暴力的电影片段,会员的反应则由脑波机和摄像机记录下来。

The women said they were not warned that some of the clips were violent, including footage of four women being murdered and dismembered.


“Please look into this ASAP,” a former Nxivm member, Jennifer Kobelt, stated in her complaint. “This man needs to be stopped.”

“请尽快调查此事,”Nxivm前成员珍妮弗·考贝尔特(Jennifer Kobelt)在投诉函中表示。“必须阻止这个男人。”

In September, regulators told Kobelt they concluded that the allegations against Porter did not meet the agency’s definition of “medical misconduct,” their letter shows.


Raniere and other top Nxivm officials, including Lauren Salzman, did not respond to repeated emails, letters or text messages seeking comment. Roberts and Porter also did not respond to inquiries.


Former members said that, inside Nxivm, they are being portrayed as defectors who want to destroy the group.


In May, Sarah Edmondson began to recoil from her embrace of the secret society.


Her husband, Anthony Ames, who was also a Nxivm member, learned about her branding and the couple both wanted out.

她的丈夫、当时与她同为Nxivm成员的安东尼·阿姆斯(Anthony Ames),得知了她被打烙印的事,夫妇俩决定退出。

Before quitting, Ames went to Nxivm’s offices in Albany to collect money he said the group owed him.


He had his cellphone in his pocket and turned on its recorder.


On the recording, Ames tells another member that Edmondson was branded and that other women told him about handing over collateral. “This is criminal,” Ames says.


The voice of a woman — who Ames said is Lauren Salzman — is heard trying to calm him. “I don’t think you are open to having a conversation,” she said.


“You are absolutely right, I’m not open to having a conversation,” he replied. “My wife got branded.”


A few days later, many of Raniere’s followers learned of the secret society from a website run by a Buffalo-area businessman, Frank R. Parlato Jr. Parlato had been locked in a long legal battle with two sisters, Sara and Clare Bronfman, who are members of Nxivm and the daughters of Edgar Bronfman, the deceased chairman of Seagram Co.

几天后,拉尼埃的很多追随者都在一个网站上看到了关于秘密组织的信息,该网站的运营者是布法罗地区的一名商人,名叫小弗兰克·R·帕拉托(Frank R. Parlato Jr.)。在过去很长一段时间里,帕拉托深陷于与萨拉和克莱尔·布朗夫曼(Sara and Clare Bronfman)的官司之中,她们俩都是Nxivm成员以及施格兰公司(Seagram Co.)已故董事长埃德加·布朗夫曼(Edgar Bronfman)的女儿。

In 2011, the Bronfman sisters sued Parlato, whom they had hired as a consultant, alleging he had defrauded them of $1 million.


Four years later, in 2015, the Justice Department indicted him on charges of fraud and other crimes arising from alleged activities, including defrauding the Bronfmans. Parlato has denied the claims and the case is pending.


Parlato started a website, The Frank Report, which he uses to lambaste prosecutors, Raniere and the Bronfmans. In early June, Parlato published the first in a torrent of salacious posts under the headline, “Branded Slaves and Master Raniere.”

帕拉托建了一个名为弗兰克报道(Frank Report)的网站,用以斥责检方、拉尼埃以及布朗夫曼姊妹。6月初,帕拉托以“被打上烙印的奴隶和主人拉尼埃”为题,发了一大堆不堪入目的帖子。

Nxivm recently filed criminal complaints with the Vancouver police against Edmondson and two other women accusing them of mischief and other crimes in connection with the firm’s now-closed center there, according to Edmondson. The women have denied the allegations. A spokesman for the Vancouver police declined to comment.


Edmondson and other former followers of Raniere said they were focusing on recovering.


“There is no playbook for leaving a cult,” she said.