Nan Wise for Psychology Today: What cults like NXIVM can teach us about ourselves.

"How do so many smart, savvy, and sophisticated people get bamboozled into participating in what ended up becoming a veritable nightmare? And secondly, what can we all learn from their experience?" Neuroscientist Nan Wise breaks down the myths surrounding cults like NXIVM in this piece for Psychology Today. 

If you think that what happens in sex cults—the manipulation, exploitation, and sexual abuse of women that leave lasting emotional and physical scars (such as the pelvic branding on cult members of NXIVM)—can only happen to those who are insecure, weak-willed, or mentally unstable, well, think again.

The story of NXIVM is a teaching moment for us all.

To those of you unfamiliar with the NXIVM cult, the founder, Keith Raniere, and his protege, actress Allison Mack, were indicted in 2018 on federal charges of sex trafficking. Five others, including the heiress to the Seagram fortune, Clare Bronfman, who bankrolled the evil shenanigans, have pleaded guilty to a host of crimes associated with their involvement in the cult. If you missed those details as they unfolded, recent media productions such as The Vow on HBO and the upcoming docuseries Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult are giving us a very sobering look at the long and harrowing journey that led to the crash and burn of the cult, as well as the wrenching collateral damage inflicted on those who Raniere enrolled along the way.