If you're watching HBO's docuseries The Vow, you are by now very familiar with NXIVM, the cult that splintered in 2018 amid allegations of sex trafficking, human branding, and fraud. What you might be less familiar with are the subgroups leader Keith Raniere created within NXIVM as membership grew: Jness, DOS, and the Society of Protectors. Former NXIVM members featured in the show make frequent mention of these groups, so here's everything you need to know in order to keep up.
According to The New York Times, Raniere started Jness in 2006 and targeted it towards the women in NXIVM. The name Jness didn't mean anything specifically, with a member describing it as "a made-up word that we are defining as we define who we are." Jness' website no longer exists, but Glamour reported that it was decorated with pink and purple accents and proclaimed to be a "women's movement that facilitates an ongoing exploration of what it means to be a woman."
One of Jness' most high-profile members was Smallville actress Allison Mack, who raved about the subgroup in a 2013 YouTube video. "Working for Jness is the most gratifying thing I've ever done," she said. "It's the most challenging because it consists of working with a group of people who are interdependent. No one is ever punished or told that they're wrong or they're bad."
It seems as if the opposite is true. According to witness testimony, Jness members were allegedly taught women are "irresponsible, if not narcissistic, self-absorbed, and inclined to cast themselves as the victim," per the Times. Being part of the group was also expensive: there were 11 eight-day workshops, which reportedly cost Jness members $5,000 each.
The Society of Protectors
Just as NXIVM had a subgroup for women, it also had one for men. According to Rolling Stone, the Society of Protectors (SOP) was founded in 2011. Former member Mark Vicente, who's featured in The Vow, testified that the group's intention was to "build character" and turn its members "from little boys into men."
The SOP members had to provide collateral to belong to the group, which usually included sums of money as high as $1,500. Vicente claimed that if the members did what they were supposed to do, they got the money back. If not, they didn't. SOP members also participated in "readiness drills" to keep them on alert in case they were ever needed in an emergency, like if a member went missing. "The idea was, 'leave no man behind,'" Vicente said.
The last major group Raniere created within NXIVM was DOS in 2015. According to Glamour, the initials, in Latin, stand for "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions." The group was comprised of women who had slave-master relationships. Like SOP, members had to give collateral to join, often in the form of nude photos. They were also allegedly put on near-starvation diets, branded with Raniere's initials, and coerced into having sex with him. Of course, that's not how it was billed to prospective members.
According to The New York Times, Raniere called the group a "sorority" while Mack, a high-ranking member, said that the women in DOS helped each other aspire to be better. "[DOS was] about women coming together and pledging to one another a full-time commitment to become our most powerful and embodied selves by pushing on our greatest fears, by exposing our greatest vulnerabilities, by knowing that we would stand with each other no matter what, by holding our word, by overcoming pain," Mack told the NYT.
When the inner workings of DOS were eventually made public, the group and NXIVM as a whole were shut down. Raniere was arrested and convicted on charges of child sex trafficking and conspiracy, as were several of his followers, including Mack. She pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy in 2019. She's now awaiting sentencing.