Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson joined Nxivm, a self-help group located in Albany, New York, a decade ago.
The company markets itself as, “a new ethical understanding that allows us to build an internal civilization and have it manifest in the external world,” which uses an unnecessary amount of words to say, well, precisely nothing.
But Edmondson was attracted to its promise of empowering women in their 30s and 40s.
In January of this year, Lauren Salzman, described as a “rock star within the company,” asked Edmondson to join a secret faction of Nxivm. She eagerly agreed.
A few months later, she says she found herself sitting in a living room with four other women, handing over “naked photographs or other compromising material” to be used as collateral if anyone disclosed private information about the group.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a damning report about the practices employed by Nxivm, a group that claims to be about “personal development”.
Edmondson was told that she would be receiving a small tattoo as part of the initiation process. But that is not what happened.
One woman claims they were required to address their ‘master’, begging; “Master, please brand me, it would be an honour”. They were then instructed to undress and lie-down on a massage table.
While they were physically restrained, a doctor used a cauterising device – a tool typically reserved for animals – to sear a square symbol on each of the women’s hips.
The New York Times reported that the procedure took between 20 and 30 minutes, and “for hours, muffled screams and the smell of burning tissue filled the room.”