For victims of Keith Raniere’s NXIVM, Tuesday marked a huge day in their healing process. The 60-year-old “cult” leader was sentenced to 120 years, essentially life, in prison. The judge’s decision came after hours of emotional testimony, many of the victims women who detailed horrific sexual abuse they experienced at the hands of Raniere.
Former NXIVM member and whistleblower Sarah Edmondson said she’s “really shocked” at Raniere’s sentence.
“I’m feeling a mixture of relieved, vindicated and safe for the first time in a long time,” Edmondson told E! News. “Relieved is the number one word on top of my head right now.”
Edmondson was a former recruiter for NXIVM. In HBO’s The Vow and in her book Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult that Bound My Life, Edmondson details her defection which helped lead to Raniere’s 2018 arrest.
“You are not a leader, a mentor, or a guru,” Edmondson told Raniere in her prepared statement Tuesday. “You are a liar, a parasite, and a grifter.”
I have taken the high road until now. But today, I feel pretty good about telling a certain someone how I really feel. I don’t have much to else to say right now. I am going to have a glass of wine and hot bath move on with my life. #causeandeffect #justice #blameandresponsibility #iGotOut #120years #Rolllingstone 📸 @jbensonpictures
A post shared by Sarah Edmondson (@sarahedmondson) on
Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose daughter India Oxenberg was a member of NXIVM, echoed Edmondson’s sense of relief.
“For me, it's a very happy moment,” she told The Hollywood Reporter of Raniere’s sentence. “Because I have been on the warpath to put this man away for three-and-a-half years. And in the past, he's always managed to wriggle out of everything because of his money, power, privilege. He's had access to unlimited wealth and he has used his power to silence victims, to intimidate victims, the terrorized, exploit, abuse — sadly, my daughter included.”
India was one of Raniere’s “slaves” in DOS, the secret women-branding sorority within NXIVM. She gave a chilling testimony on Tuesday.
“You raped me,” Oxenberg said, facing Raniere in the courtroom, per Variety. “You tried to destroy my family by turning me against my own mother, telling me she was a psychopath.”
Raniere has expressed no remorse for his actions, instead defending both NXIVM and the sorority as “good.”
“This man would never stop. I think that much was clear even at his sentencing, where he basically called his victims liars,” Catherine explained. “He has absolutely no remorse, which I think in essence makes him a sociopath. But it’s over for him. And the sentence of 120 years to me says the judge recognizes how much of a danger this man is to society and how it's absolutely impossible for this man to be rehabilitated. And that if he has any contact with the outside world, that all he will do is cause destruction. I think it’s a fair sentence.”
For Catherine, although she was never indoctrinated, she called Raniere’s sentence the end of “a very lonely, very painful journey” as it took years to get her daughter back.
Mark Vicente, a former NXIVM member and central figure in The Vow, called the sentence “music to my ears.”
“For us recent whistleblowers, this has been over three years in the making. For those who came before us, DECADES. We stand on the shoulders of many brave women who tried so hard to warn everyone,” he wrote.
— mark vicente (@markvicente) October 28, 2020
Today prisoner 57005-177 will be sentenced. For us recent whistleblowers, this has been over three years in the making. For those who came before us, DECADES. We stand on the shoulders of many brave women who tried so hard to warn everyone. Thank you! #NXIVM @TheVowHBO #TheVowHBO pic.twitter.com/IV9titUjxZ
— mark vicente (@markvicente) October 27, 2020
Vicente was among the 15 people to speak at the hearing as he called Raniere “a malicious, petty, evil and dangerously vengeful sociopath.”
He told the judge, “There are the physical things Raniere has done to people. Coerced them to starve themselves, sleep deprivation, cutting them off from their friends and family, closing doors on their life and career opportunities, shunning, terrorism by litigation, branding, triangulating his students against each other, maliciously squandering the childbearing years of dozens of women, convincing people he knew better than their doctors… resulting in them forgoing medical treatment they should have had. These are all terrible things. But it is the psychological and existential injuries which will continue for the rest of our lives… that I find the most heinous.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: