The jurors in the federal trial of Keith Raniere saw a video on Wednesday in which the accused NXIVM cult leader appeared to promote sex with 12-year-olds ― in other words, raping children.
The video, which was shown by prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, featured a sermon written by Raniere and delivered by NXIVM co-founder Nancy Saltzman. In that sermon, Raniere wrote that age is just a number when it comes to sex.
“In some parts of the world, the age of consent is 17. In other parts of the world, the age of consent is 12,” he wrote in the address, which was read to members of the women’s group within NXIVM, according to the New York Post.
Raniere’s sermon called this the key question to ask about sex with an underage person: “Is the person a child, or is the person adult-like?”
A former alleged “sex slave” known as Sylvie testified on Wednesday that the women’s group that day also discussed how women supposedly use claims of abuse to get what they want.
“I think we were all like, ‘Whoa,’ regarding the age of consent being 12,” Sylvie told jurors, according to the New York Post. “Now it doesn’t make sense, but we’d always just agree.”
In opening statements on Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that the 58-year-old Raniere had turned a 15-year-old girl into his sex slave and took nude photos.
Raniere is being tried on charges of racketeering conspiracy, including acts of child sexual exploitation and possession of child pornography.