Women say they were "branded and traumatized by doctors" in New York as part of cult ritual

I've never heard of NXIVM. According to Wikipedia, it is "a pyramid selling organization centered on the provision of classes and seminars that encourage clients to pursue a path of personal and professional development. Branding and the "collateral" collection of personal information and/or pictures are recognized parts of the "initiation" into the NXIVM experience." It was co-founded in 1998 by a man named Keith Raniere. Recently a group of women said that they'd been traumatized by medical doctors who belonged to the group. NXIVM says, "This story might be a criminal product of criminal minds who, in the end, are also hurting the victims of the story."

From Time:

In a complaint filed with the [New York] state Department of Health over the summer and shared with the [New York] Times, a woman said Dr. Brandon Porter, of the Albany suburb Clifton Park, did studies on behalf of NXIVM's personal development program. In one study, she said, Porter connected her to brainwave monitoring equipment and without warning showed her film clips depicting extreme violence including gang rape. She said she has been haunted by the images for almost a year.

Other women complained to the health department that Dr. Danielle Roberts, a family doctor in Clifton Park, used a surgical device to burn brands on women's lower abdomens during their initiations into a secret sorority within NXIVM.

From Business Insider:

  • The sorority reportedly had a number of different circles each led by a "master" who would recruit six "slaves." Eventually, these "slaves" would recruit "slaves" of their own.
  • To gain admission to the sorority, "slaves" were reportedly required to give their "master" naked photographs or other compromising material as "collateral." If they revealed the group's existence, the "collatoral" might be publicly released.
  • Membership is said to have grown steadily. "Slaves added compromising collateral every month to Dropbox accounts, and a Google Document was used to list a timetable for recruiting new slaves, several women said," the New York Times reports.
  • During an initiation ceremony, one "master," a top NXIVM official named Lauren Salzman, reportedly instructed women to say: "Master, please brand me, it would be an honor."
  • "A female doctor proceeded to use a cauterizing device to sear a two-inch-square symbol below each woman's hip, a procedure that took 20 to 30 minutes. For hours, muffled screams and the smell of burning tissue filled the room," the New York Times reports.
  • The branding symbol's design is said to have incorporated Ranier's initials as a "tribute." According to the New York Times, Ranier texted a female follower: "if it were abraham lincolns or bill gates initials no one would care.'"
  • "Former members have depicted [Raniere] as a man who manipulated his adherents, had sex with them, and urged women to follow near-starvation diets to achieve the type of physique he found appealing," the New York Times reports.
  • During training, the women were reportedly required to text their "masters," "Morning M" and "Night M." If a "master" texted her "slaves" with a "?" and a "slave" failed to reply, "Ready M," within 60 seconds, said "slave" would have to pay a penalty like fasting or a physical punishment, the New York Times reports.
  • NXIVM-affiliated physician Dr. Brandon Porter reportedly conducted an "experiment" on some women, where he showed them violent footage of women being murdered and dismembered while a brain-wave machine and video camera recorded their reactions.