"They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. They build close connections between you and your comrades--and the more secretive those are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult. Sex Trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced Labour. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Vice investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a cult run by Keith Raniere and his second-in-command Smallville actor Allison Mack. Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman uncovers how dozens of young women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities instead were blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. Vancouver actor and NXIVM recruiter Sarah Edmondson thought that she had signed up for self-help coaching; instead, her peers in the group held her down and filmed her as the the cult leader's initials were carved into the flesh below her hip. Don't Call It a Cult shows that these abuses looked very different from the inside, where young women initially received mentorship and protection. By accessing top experts on high-control groups, as well as the accounts of Raniere's former acolytes (Sarah Edmonston; Maja Miljković; Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne), Berman unpacks the deep spiritual experiences that the young women in NXIVM's inner circle shared, and their strong resistance to leaving even months after the FBI made its first arrests in March 2018. If any members did become disillusioned and try to escape or go to the authorities, there were wealthy members with deep pockets to deal with the problem. Seagram heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman funded NXIVM for fifteen years, using their trust fund money to support Raniere's lavish lifestyle, stock market gambling habits, and to hire powerful lawyers to fight off defectors' complaints. For decades, Raniere's abuses existed in plain sight--somehow too absurd and sensational to be taken seriously--and the cult's power structure and financial resources were used to keep abuses from being investigated. The cult's directors were linked to everything from tax violations to suspicious deaths. Money could buy silence, until it finally didn't. Don't Call It a Cult is a riveting account NXIVM's rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its tawdry secrets to the world. It explores why so many were drawn to its message of empowerment yet were powerless to recognize its manipulative and harmful leader for what he was--a criminal."-- Provided by publisher.