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The former doctor who branded 18 women at the heart of NXIVM’s inner sex ring is still defending her actions as well as proclaiming her admiration for group leader Keith Raniere.
“I think Keith is a brilliant man and that DOS is a tremendous organization,” Dr. Danielle Roberts told The New York Post this week.
She previously told NBC’s “Dateline” that she branded numerous members of NXIVM’s secret group, DOS, which federal prosecutors said coerced women into master/slave relationships under the leadership of Raniere. She specified, however, that she was not acting as a physician at the time. The osteopath was stripped of her medical license last month, according to the Post.
Roberts, 40, challenges the interpretation of DOS survivors who have described the branding ceremony as traumatic.
“It was beautiful,” Roberts said. “It was about trust. They would come in […] and give me a hug. It was a very meaningful initiation ceremony.”
DOS served as a way for Raniere to gain and exert control over selected women in the disgraced self-help group. Members of DOS subjugated themselves to a higher-ranking "master" and were required to regularly turn over collateral – material that could be used for future blackmail. Typically, this came in the form of nude photos or potentially damaging personal information, which was held to ensure secrecy and loyalty. DOS recruits were required to have the initials of Raniere carved onto their bodies with a cauterizing pen. It proved their devotion to the group and to Raniere, for who they, in turn, became “slaves." Raniere, the mastermind behind the branding ceremony, was sentenced in 2020 to 120 years in federal prison for a slew of charges, including sex trafficking.
Roberts disclosed she has also been branded with the now-convicted criminal's initials.
“A big part of DOS was learning to surrender, to overcome fears of letting go, to trust other women,” Roberts told the Post.
She claims that the branding initiation left women “empowered” and that they felt “bad-ass after enduring the pain.”
"With the 18 I did, none backed out,” she said.
Lauren Salzman, who was both a DOS “slave” and “master,” called the branding ceremony “the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced” during her 2019 court testimony, the New York Post reported. And Sarah Edmondson, a former DOS member who blew the whistle on the group in a 2017 story in the New York Times, testified during Raniere's sentencing that she needed plastic surgery to have her brand removed. Former DOS member India Oxenberg said she covered up her brand with a tattoo.
Roberts asserted to “Dateline” earlier this year though that she doesn’t feel the women were harmed when they were branded.
“I think pain and harm are two different things,” she said.
She said that Edmondson and around 80 other former NXIVM participants are launching a civil lawsuit against her and others involved in he group.
“They took my medical license, which cost me $300,000 in schooling," she told the Post. "They destroyed my career and my reputation. These are the hardest years of my life. But I am proud of who I am and who I am becoming by staying true to myself despite tremendous forces to turn against my friends or claim to be victims.”
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