NEW YORK - May 29, 2018
The former actress Sarah Edmondson has described the bizarre way cult-leader Keith Raniere would greet members when he first met them.
Edmondson said the 57-year-old was 'good at getting a rapport and connecting eye to eye' with people, but had a special trick that would help seal the deal.
She had encountered Raniere before the allegations were made, and did not have the same tainted view of him.
The entire structure of NXIVM was designed to reinforce this pedestal. “Every day we’re going ‘thank you Vanguard,’ and like this curriculum is so amazing, and it’s all 'cause of Keith. So you have a lot of people saying thank you and revering him before you even meet him.” Asked to elaborate on how Raniere interacted with members, Edmondson replies, “You’re not going to like this answer—he kisses everyone on the lips.”
Members called Ramiere 'Vanguard' because it was the word for a leader of a philosophical movement, which is what Edmondson believed she had signed up to.
Believing the initial five-day course she had paid $2,000 to attend had genuinely changed her life for the better, she became a top recruiter for NXIVM.
Edmondson, who was part of DOS, the women's only group, was even branded with Raniere's initials by the cult last year, describing the experience, which took up to 30 minutes and was done without anesthetic, as 'a bad horror movie'.
'We were crying, we were shaking, we were holding each other,' she recalled.
'It was horrific. I felt petrified. I felt, every part of my body was like: get out of here. Run.'
Once indoctrinated, members had to follow strict rules, including texting back their 'masters' within 60 seconds of receiving a message.
On one occasion, when one group of 'slaves' failed to adhere to the rule, their 'master' said she would be paddled and locked in a cage by her own master - Raniere - and the punishment offered to the 'slaves' was even worse, Edmondson said.
'They paddled each other, videotaped it, naked, and sent that to Lauren who sent it to her master, who now we know is Keith.'
While initially enamored by Raniere, Edmondson said her views had changed since leaving the cult.
'In retrospect, Keith doesn't care about humanity and ethics, we were all pawns to him in his little chess game - especially women,' she said.
'[He is a] sociopathic, narcissistic, nut job”.
Keith Raniere, 57, founder of the self-help organization "NXIVM," created 20 years ago and based in Albany, New York, was arrested in a luxury villa in Puerto Vallarta and deported to the United States,where he will face charges of sex trafficking and forced labor.
He can be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment.
With NXIVM, which operates in the United States, Mexico, Canada and South America, Raniere was leading self-help workshops since 1998.
With an entourage of 15 to 20 women with whom she had sexual relations from the beginning, she is accused of creating in 2015 a small ultra secret group called "DOS", totally composed of women and with several levels of "slaves" and "mistresses".
The slaves had to recruit other slaves, especially from NXIVM. To enter DOS, women had to submit videos, photos and compromising information that was then used to blackmail them if they wanted to leave the organization.
They also signed agreements to cede assets or the possession of their children to Raniere if they broke the silence.
The slaves had to do housework for the mistresses, respond to messages quickly day or night and have sex with Raniere when asked. They also had to maintain diets of less than a thousand calories a day because Raniere liked skinny women.
The brand had the initials of Raniere. The ceremonies were filmed and the material was kept as "collateral".
After the public resignation of a "slave" of DOS and the publication of an article in the New York Times last October about the secret society, Raniere fled to Mexico with a wealthy "heiress". It is suspected that he lived in Monterrey, where NXIVM has a center.