Multiple women claim to have been branded in a strange initiation to join a secret sisterhood after becoming members of the controversial Albany-based self-help organization called NXIVM.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published an expose on the group, which included details of the strange initiation. Sarah Edmonson, one of five women who took part, told the Times they had to give their "master" naked photographs and other compromising material that would be released if they spoke publicly about the group. The "master" was NXIVM official Lauren Salzman.
Edmonson claimed they were told to take off their cloths and lie on a massage table. Three other people restrained them and the women were told to tell Salzman, "Master, please brand me, it would be an honor." Then, a female doctor branded them below the hip.
According to Inside Edition, the women were branded with the letters "K.R." That's the initials of Keith Raniere, the founder of NXIVM, a group that offers self-help courses. Since it was founded in 1998, 16,000 people have taken the courses.
Cult expert Rick Ross told Inside Edition that the women were physically branded like "cattle."
"He has managed to manipulate and control people with his great wealth, including heiresses, powerful people, celebrities, and he has reaped a harvest of cash — some estimate a hundred million dollars," Ross said.
The Times reports that some members have started leaving NXIVM after rumors of the secret sisterhood and branding began to spread.
Edmonson told the Times she filed a complaint to the New York State Department of Health against Dr. Danielle Roberts, who she claims performed the branding. Initially, the Department of Health said they wouldn't investigate because Roberts wasn't officially her doctor during the branding procedure.
On Thursday, a spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told the Times officials will investigate why no action was taken in response to Edmonson's complaint.
NXIVM denied the claims in the Times' original expose on the group, alleging "coordinated, criminal efforts" to link the secret group to them.
"We will explore any and all legal remedies to correct these lies," the group said.
Photo credit: Facebook / Inside Edition