HBO’s The Vow is cracking up to be the strangest and most talked-about documentary series since Tiger King. While its final episode doesn’t air until Sunday, there’s one twist in the story that happened after the filmmaker’s stopped filming: on Wednesday it was reported that one of its bigger stars is going to jail.
According to The New York Times, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman was sentenced to six years and nine months for her role as a funder and leader in NXIVM, an alleged cult that has been accused of, among other things, coercing female members into sexual slavery. A number of its leaders, among them founder Keith Raniere and top recruiter Alison Mack, have been convicted of various charges and are awaiting sentencing. Bronfman is the first NXIVM higher-up to be sentenced.
Founded in 1998, Nvixm sold itself as a self-help group that, as per NYT, “purported to help people achieve their personal goals through ‘executive success’ workshops.” But as the years went on, it evolved into something darker, with leaders using it as a recruiting platform for a secret society referred to as either “DOS” or “The Vow.” A number of leaders and members are former television actors.
During the hearing, former NXIVM members detailed their abuses:
In an emotional hearing on Wednesday, nine victims of Nxivm spoke about how their lives had been destroyed by Ms. Bronfman. Some of them said Ms. Bronfman sued them relentlessly for years after they left Nxivm and even persuaded local prosecutors to initiate criminal charges against them.
Earlier Wednesday, one NXIVM devotee, former Battlestar Galactica actress Nicky Clyne — who is married to Mack, herself a former actress on Smallville — tried to defend the group. “It’s very unfortunate the way that the word ‘NXIVM’ has been applied and is now synonymous with the term ‘sexual cult,’ which I don’t even know how to define what that is,” Clyne told CBS’ This Morning. She and for other former NXIVM members even brought a formal petition to prosecutors, alleging prosecutorial misconduct against Raniere, who was convicted in July of racketeering, sex trafficking, fraud and other crimes.
“We’re not denying that certain things took place,” Clyne, who has never been charged with a crime, added. “There’s evidence that certain things happened. How they happened, why they happened and why certain people chose them — that’s a whole other conversation.” She added, “I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.”