In the lead-up to A&E’s premiere of its “Cults and Extreme Belief” series, exclusive clips released online feature former members of NXIVM detailing how participants – including “Smallville” actress Allison Mack – were lured into the sadistic sex cult by “charismatic” leader Keith Raniere.
“In the process of understanding our indoctrination, he is slipping in new indoctrination,” ex-member Sarah Edmundson tells series host Elizabeth Vargas in the clip. “I actually remember the last training I took with Jness," referring to the women's branch of the group. "I was like, ‘wow, I’m not obedient enough.”
Edmundson is referring to the “Jness track of NXIVM,” a Raniere-run “secret women’s” program. She claims entrants paid $15,000 for three eight-day training sessions devoted to helping women “figure out” who they are “at their core.” Raniere is said to have told the participants that “women are designed to be loyal to our man and be subservient.”
Edmundson also exposes her distressing initiation into the “DOS” sex cult division of the broader NXIVM organization, in which she details how she arrived at Mack’s home in Albany, N.Y., under the guise she was getting a tattoo to mark her admittance into the “secret sisterhood,” only to be held down on a table and branded with a cauterizing pen – and left with a scar bearing Raniere’s initials.
Fellow former member Mark Vicente, also interviewed in the episode, goes to explain that the leader persuaded female members that they needed to have sex with him “for their growth,” and notes that some even signed lifelong pledges to own sleep with him for the rest of their lives. Raniere also cajoled each member into “kissing him on the lips” as part of the indoctrination process.
Scam artist and chieftain of the cult, the now 57-year-old Raniere developed NXIVM as a “self-help course” in 1998, and went on make millions – offering followers a unique opportunity to develop the mechanisms necessary to make a mark on the world.
Raniere was arrested in Mexico in March, charged with sex trafficking, sexual assault, forced branding, blackmail and baiting clients into other forms of self-destruction including mandatory near-starvation diets.
Mack, who made her way up the ranks to become his sex cult second-in-command, too was arrested by the FBI in April on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy.
A&E Investigates: Cults and Extreme Belief premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on A&E.