British Columbia

Vancouver woman who escaped NXIVM sex cult relieved with leader's 120-year prison sentence

A Vancouver woman who sued NXIVM leader Keith Raniere for abuse she suffered in the cult says she can finally move on with her life after he was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday.

'I feel like I can live my life now and be safe'

Sarah Edmondson, a Vancouver, B.C., resident and NXIVM survivor who was branded with leader Keith Raniere's initials, says she's ready to move on in her life after Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday. (CBC News)

A Vancouver woman who sued NXIVM leader Keith Raniere for abuse she suffered in the cult says she can finally move on with her life after he was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday.

The disgraced guru, whose followers included millionaires and Hollywood actors, targeted young girls and women through his sex-trafficking cult masquerading as a self-help program. 

Some of his victims were as young as 15 years old.

Others, like Sarah Edmondson, were branded with his initials. 

The Vancouver woman's video-recorded victim impact statement was played in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis sentenced Raniere to life in prison.

"I said, 'You're not my coach or a guru or a leader. You're a parasite, a grifter and a liar. And I hope those words impacted him," Edmondson told CBC News.

"I feel like I can live my life now and be safe."

The sentencing comes after years of revelations surfaced about Raniere's program, which charged thousands of dollars for exclusive self-improvement courses in New York state, with branches in Mexico and Canada.

Edmondson and her husband were among a handful of named plaintiffs in a lawsuit with 80 anonymous claimants, including 28 Canadian women and 13 Canadian men. 

Prosecutors said NXIVM amounted to a criminal enterprise that used shame and guilt to influence and control co-conspirators who helped recruit new members to groom as sexual partners for Raniere, 60. 

He was convicted on charges including racketeering, alien smuggling, sex trafficking, extortion and obstruction of justice. The judge who delivered the sentence Tuesday called him "ruthless and unyielding."

In this Tuesday, May 7, 2019 file courtroom drawing, defendant Keith Raniere, centre, leader of the secretive group NXIVM, is seated between his attorneys Paul DerOhannesian, left, and Marc Agnifilo during the first day of his sex trafficking trial. (Elizabeth Williams/The Associated Press)

'A narcissistic sociopath'

Edmondson's victim impact statement was among several submitted to the court, including one from India Oxenberg, who called Raniere an "entitled little princess" and sexual predator, lamenting that she "may have to spend the rest of my life with Keith Raniere's initials seared into me."

Raniere was unrepentant.

"I do believe I am innocent of the charges. ... It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do not believe I committed at all," he said.

Edmondson said she was not surprised by his words.

"Keith's a narcissistic sociopath, in my opinion. He can't take responsibility for anything," she said.

The team behind season one of Uncover: Escaping NXIVM takes us inside the trial of NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere and speaks with former member of the group Sarah Edmondson about her thoughts on the trial. 36:56

Edmondson said she is looking forward to focusing on her kids and acting career now that this is behind her. 

Although she said she's happy with the sentence, she says there's a sense of loss that 120 years behind bars can't account for. 

"There's also a lot of sadness that a really beautiful group was destroyed because he lied to many of us," Edmondson said.

"I hope that everyone can heal and move on with their lives."

With files from The Associated Press

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