A former member of mysterious self-help group NXIVM has claimed she was invited into a secret society allegedly associated with the organization — then branded with the initials of the group’s founder in a “horrific” initiation ritual.
Sarah Edmondson, who filed a New York Department of Health complaint about the alleged branding with a cauterizing device, tells ABC’s 20/20 tonight: “It was a horror movie. It was the most horrific, inhumane way to treat anybody.”
Edmondson claims the branding took place under no anaesthetic after she and a handful of other women were taken into a room, blindfolded and naked. She says she willingly took part but that she thought she and the other women were going to get tattoos.
Edmondson says of the pain: “It was worse than childbirth,” adding that she was told the brand was a Latin symbol but later realized it included the letters “K” and “R”, which she took to be the initials for NXIVM founder Keith Raniere.
She says: “I lost it when I figured it out. I am not cattle. I’m not owned by Keith.”
Tonight’s 20/20 episode comes after a New York Times report into NXIVM, based in Albany, New York, in October. The group says it is a “professional coaching company” which offers “Executive Success Programs”.
Rainiere said in a statement on the NXIVM website that the secret sorority is not connected with NXIVM and he is not in any way associated with the group. He said: “There is no merit to the allegations that we are abusing, coercing or harming individuals.”
20/20 airs Fridays at 10/9c on ABC.