On Cults and Extreme Belief: Nxivm, former member Sarah Edmondson described the painful way she and other women were initiated into a subset of the cult at the home of former Smallville actress Allison Mack. The offshoot Edmondson was joining, called Dominus Obsequious Sororium, was sold as a female mentorship program, but roughly translated into English, the name means “master over the slave women.” Edmondson thought that she and the others would be getting small tattoos, but when the ceremony began she realized they were to be branded — in what turned out to be a long and painful process.
“When people think branding, they think there’s a stamp,” Edmondson said. “And then there’s just going to be a metal thing that goes like this (does a pressing motion) on your flesh. And it sears your flesh, and you take it away. I don’t think people can imagine what it’s like to have your skin seared open by a hot cauterizing iron for 40 or 45 minutes. It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Edmondson and her husband left Nxivm soon after the branding, but they will always have the reminder of its leader, Keith Raniere, and Mack. Edmondson eventually saw that the branding symbol incorporated Raniere and Mack’s initials.
Soon after leaving Nxivm, Edmondson became aware of sexual abuse within the organization and took her story to the authorities. Both Raniere and Mack have been charged with multiple offenses.
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