Once believed to be a self-help organization, NXIVM has impacted how we traditionally perceive new religious movements (NRMs), opening the dialogue to further explore the relationship between NRMs and criminal behavior. This study employs social network analysis to explore the evolution of criminal behavior, including within-group violence, that occurred over NXIVM's life course. Network data was obtained from autobiographical and biographical data, court documents, and secondary sources, and triangulated for validity and reliability. The current study explores the role turning points play on the movement's trajectory, measuring network cohesion and actor centrality across NXIVM's Onset, Persistence, and Escalation and Desistance. Results showed that each turning point elicited significant change in the network, decreasing NXIVM's overall density and cohesion. The study also examines the evolution of criminal behavior in the network by testing the relationship between offending, victimization, (e.g., enslavement, sexual assault, exploitation, etc.) and centrality. Bivariate results showed that influential actors—specifically women—in the network were and continued to be, victimized whilst victimizing fellow members. Select women took an active role in the exploitation and victimization of others, while being victimized themselves. As of current, no studies have used social network analysis to study new religious movements. Pursuing network studies would be invaluable for understanding the evolution of criminal behavior and group persistence in NRMs.
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Thesis advisor: Frank, Richard
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