HBO’s The Vow explores the story of Keith Raniere and his cult NXIVM, as well as a number of ex-members who left the group before it imploded in 2018. One of those people is Barbara Bouchey, an ex-girlfriend of Keith’s and one of the first women who left the group back in 2009.
Barbara remained silent about her experiences at NXIVM for a long time after leaving due to harassment she faced from the group and a barrage of lawsuits that were used to keep her quiet. But what happened to Barbara Bouchey and where is she now?
What happened to Keith Raniere's ex Barbara Bouchey?
An intelligent woman and self-made millionaire by the age of 40, Barbara didn't seem like the kind of person to willingly join a cult. She was first drawn to Keith Raniere’s world through Nancy Salzman, with whom Barbara had done a couple of therapy sessions over the years.
When she joined NXIVM in 2000, Barbara was going through a particularly difficult time in her life as she was going through a divorce and her best friend had just committed suicide. She was taken by Keith’s self-help workshop and found his curriculum to be “profound and life-changing” at the time. Barbara notes that while she didn’t find Keith that impressive at first, she began to view him through a different lens after completing her workshop.
When Barbara joined NXIVM, she worked as a very successful financial planner, but soon, Keith convinced her to stop taking new clients and devote more time to volunteering with the group. He also began pursuing her romantically, and six months after joining NXIVM, Barbara began to reciprocate his feelings. Keith also convinced Barbara to invest her personal money into a commodity account with him and in time, she lost over $1.6 million, which amounted to her entire life savings.
Barbara thought that she and Keith were in a committed, monogamous relationship for nearly a year until she found out that he was also involved with other women in his inner circle. Additionally, she began to notice Keith’s abusive behavior and in 2009, Barbara left the group — but not before she and eight other women confronted Keith about what they saw as his troubling behavior.
After she left NXIVM, Barbara faced years of harassment through incessant legal cases that were brought against her by Keith and his protégés. She was wrongfully arrested and faced false extortion charges in addition to an onslaught of character assassination that attempted to ruin her reputation as a trusted member of her community. Although the cases were eventually dismissed, Barbara incurred massive lawyers' fees, which forced her to file for temporary bankruptcy relief.
Due to the relentless harassment, Barbara was forced to keep a low profile for many years but she never backed down from trying to expose the group. Eventually she became part of the group of ex-members who alerted the authorities to NXIVM’s practices. And after Keith’s arrest in 2018, Barbara finally felt safe enough to speak out.
During Keith’s trial, Barbara told an audience at CrimeCon that watching the trial was a horrifying experience for her as the secrets of the group came to light. “I have moments where I want to barf, moments I can’t speak,” she said. “I’m crying myself a river in the back aisle of the courtroom. I’m hearing things I can’t even comprehend, and my mind is racing so fast to try and understand what happened during my time there and why.”
Watch new episodes of The Vow, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.