After all those hot dogs and fireworks on Monday, it may be time to get serious before going back to work. A&E is launching its new series under the A&E Investigates umbrella, Cults and Extreme Belief, hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, and offering a glimpse into active groups through the eyes of past devotees.
And the first episode is extremely timely, as it looks into NXIVM, an organization that’s been in the news within the past few weeks.
NXIVM, which counts Smallville actress Allison Mack among its members, is known for selling “self-help” seminars that they claim will give people the tools they need to get their lives together and make a difference in the world. But group leader Keith Raniere — referred to by followers as Vanguard — was recently arrested in Mexico and charged with sex trafficking, among other crimes. He also stands accused of drawing supporters down a path of destruction that includes near-starvation diets, sexual assault, forced branding, pseudo-slavery and blackmail.
For the premiere episode of Cults and Extreme Belief, former members of NXIVM share their experiences of manipulation and sexual violation. Sarah Edmundson is among those who sit down with Vargas to share new details of her ordeal inside the organization, which first broke in the New York Times late last year.
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In the exclusive clip above, Edmundson describes the Jness track of NXIVM, which cost entrants $15,000 for three eight-day trainings designed for women “to help us figure out who we are at our core.” In it, she claims Raniere told them “women are designed to be loyal to our man and be subservient.”
“In the process of understanding our indoctrination, he is slipping in a new indoctrination,” Edmundson adds. “I actually remember the last training I took with Jness. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m not obedient enough.'”
A&E Investigates: Cults and Extreme Belief premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on A&E.