HBO’s The Vow is an insider’s look into NXIVM, told from the perspectives of people that were part of the group and close to key players like Keith Raniere. While Keith Raniere’s name was most in the press back when he was arrested in 2018, this nine-part documentary makes it clear that Keith wasn’t the only one in charge.
Through the series we are introduced to other important members who made NXIVM possible. One of those players is Lauren Salzman, daughter of NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, and a high-ranking official within Keith’s inner circle known as DOS.
But now that the group has officially dissolved, Lauren has been caught up in the aftermath of the cult and faces consequences of her own.
What happened to Lauren Salzman?
Lauren was one of five women who were with Keith during his 2018 arrest in Mexico, where he had fled to the year before, after Sarah Edmondson's New York Times article exposing DOS and NXIVM’s unsavory practices became public. Lauren was also arrested on racketeering charges and in 2019, she pled guilty to charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.
Lauren faces up to 20 years in prison, but her sentence might be cut down due to the fact that she became a key witness for the prosecution in the trial against Keith. At his trial, Lauren revealed horrifying details about what the cult did and how Keith had a hold over her for all those years.
Lauren was supposed to be sentenced last September, but her sentencing has been postponed.
What did Lauren do in NXIVM?
Lauren first met Keith when she was 21 in 1998 and they began a sexual relationship in 2001, which continued in secret until she joined DOS around eight years later. While she was in DOS, Lauren testified in court that Keith was her master and that she “respected him, and trusted him and ... wanted to be like him.”
Her role within DOS was that of a “master” who recruited other “slaves,” and at one point Lauren had 22 people reporting directly to her, including Sarah from whom we hear in The Vow. As she rose within the ranks of DOS, Lauren said that Keith allowed her to have sex with other women that he was having sex with within the group, but when she came to him asking for permission to sleep with another man, he said no.
Keith told her that if she stayed with him, he would recommit to her and have a child with her, but every time Lauren committed an “ethical breach,” like jumping on another man in celebration of a volleyball win, Keith would get angry and question whether he wanted to have a child with someone so “disrespectful.”
Despite how Keith treated her, Lauren remained loyal to him for many years. She participated in taking naked group photos for Keith, refrained from masturbation, and religiously maintained her strict 1,500-calorie diet.
Lauren also testified that in 2010 she helped Keith keep a woman of Mexican nationality confined to a room for the “ethical breach” of falling in love with another man. Lauren testified that she was under the impression the woman would be kept in the room for a few days but her "stay" actually lasted 18 to 24 months.
Lauren also admitted to threatening the woman with deportation if she continued to disobey Keith’s orders.
In the end, Lauren testified that seeing Keith come out of the walk-in closet where he was hiding as Mexican authorities held guns to her own head put it all in perspective. As she said on the stand, “It never even crossed my mind that I would choose Keith and Keith would choose Keith.”
Stream new episodes of The Vow every Sunday on HBO at 10 p.m. ET.