A former member of NXIVM, a so-called “self-help” group that specifically targets women, has come forward to say that she was one of five women who were allegedly branded in March after being summoned to join a secret sorority within the group.
Actress Sarah Edmondson said that she first got involved with NXIVM in 2005, and participated in the group’s “seminars” for more than a decade before she was asked if she wanted to advance in the organization. Together with four other women, Edmondson said she was led to a house in Albany where a woman told them to strip down and put on blindfolds as part of an initiation ritual. Edmondson thought they were going to get tattoos — instead, she discovered, they were to be branded with a cauterizing device, without anesthetic, by a woman she identified as Dr. Danielle Roberts.
“The [first] woman on the table screamed out in pain, twisted and turned and yelled. And the woman I was with, holding her legs down, we looked at each other and we just wept,” Edmondson told ABC News. “It was a horror movie. It was the most inhumane, horrific way to treat anybody. But the most horrific thing is that it’s women doing it to women.”
The pain, she added, was “worse than childbirth.”
The brand, she later realized, included the letters “K” and “R” — an apparent reference to NXIVM founder Keith Raniere.
“I lost it when I figured that out,” Edmondson said. “I am not cattle. I’m not owned by Keith.”
According to Frank Parlato, a former publicist for NXIVM, the secret sorority is called DOS, which he said stood for “dominus obsequious sororium” — Latin for “master over the slave women.” Parlato also claimed that Raniere would force members of the group to have sex with him.
In a written statement posted to the NXIVM website, Raniere has claimed that the secret sorority was “not part of NXIVM,” and that his “experts … say members of the sorority are thriving, healthy, happy, better off, and haven’t been coerced.”
In a video interview last month, Edmondson talked about how she got sucked into the secretive society. She elaborated on that in a an appearance on ABC’s 20/20 that aired Friday night. Watch that interview below.
Read the full story at ABC News.