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Whistleblowers who helped the bring down the controversial self-help group NXIVM and its inner sex ring are speaking out about the organization's former leader, who has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Keith Raniere, NXIVM's co-founder and a self-styled philosophical guru, was sentenced Tuesday to 120 years for a slew of criminal charges, including sex-trafficking, child pornography, racketeering, forced labor, identity theft, and obstruction of justice.
NXIVM ostensibly offered self-improvement workshops, but its members developed an almost cultish devotion to Raniere, who cultivated a reputation as one of the smartest people in the world and who insisted on being called "Vanguard" by his followers. Under Raniere's guidance, a clandestine sect of women followers evolved within NXIVM, known as DOS, that was based on master-slave relationships, blackmail, coercion and sex. Members were ritualistically branded with Raniere's initials as a symbol of loyalty.
Sarah Edmondson is one former member who was branded. She was one of several ex-devotees to blow the whistle on NXIVM's illicit activities in a 2017 New York Times story, a decision documented in HBO’s “The Vow.”
In an Instagram Live interview Tuesday following the sentencing, Edmondson told comedian Whitney Cummings, "I am in a total state of shock right now."
She said that with Raniere behind bars for life, “I feel so much safer now."
Edmondson described the fact that the world is now aware of Raniere’s crimes “massive closure for us that we can move on.”
When India left NXIVM in 2018, she had been in the group for seven years, the last two of which included membership in DOS. When Catherine found out her daughter had been branded and was being used as a “slave,” she tried to get her out of the group and in turn helped lead the crusade to expose the organization. She and fellow whistleblowers’ efforts led to the arrests of Raniere and other high-ranking members.
"Tragically, he abused and exploited my own beloved daughter and countless others. My faith in the justice system is renewed," the mother stated. “Keith can no longer use his power, privilege and access to unlimited wealth to silence and abuse his victims. He has been held accountable for his crimes.”
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