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Here’s why Uncover: Escaping NXIVM should be your next podcast.
There’s something about cults that make them incredibly fascinating. From the Branch Davidians to Jonestown, we want to know what draws people to them and, more importantly, how they escape. Luckily for us Canada’s CBC, the minds behind Someone Knows Something and Missing and Murdered, are here to fill that void for us with their new podcast Uncover: Escaping NXIVM.
You might have heard about NXIVM (nex-ee-um) in the news recently as Smallville actress Allison Mack was arrested on sex trafficking charges as a result of being a member of the group. NXIVM was supposed to be a group of like-minded people trying to attain personal growth and fulfilment through taking courses. However, behind the scenes, leader Keith Raniere crafted courses which sought to belittle and humiliate the women in the group as much as possible. There were also rumours that Raniere had allegedly had sex with girls as young as 12, which he claimed was a media conspiracy against him.
Hosted by Joshua Bloc, the podcast takes a look at the group from the inside as Bloc’s childhood friend, Sarah Edmondson, used to be a member of the group. In fact she had been a member for 12 years and it was only by chance that the two ran into each other in Vancouver. In the first episode Sarah details the horrific branding that she underwent which involved a cauterising iron that branded a 2-inch square symbol on her hip. It was only later on when she realised that the initials within the symbol actually stood for ‘Keith Raniere’ and ‘Allison Mack’. As well as that, Edmondson became a slave to top official Lauren Salzman and would be expected to answer her calls and texts at any hour of the day as well as perform favours at least once a week. To become a member, potential candidates had to provide collateral to their “masters” such as incriminating secrets about themselves or loved ones in case they betrayed the group.
Why would anyone join such a group? That’s the question the podcast is seeking to answer. CBC has a reputation for producing high quality investigative podcasts and Escaping NXIVM is no different. Bloc is constantly asking Edmondson the questions we all want to ask for ourselves: what were the thoughts going through her mind when she was being branded? How exactly did she get sucked into the group in the first place? Bloc also interviews women who used to date Raniere, who left the group and had their lives destroyed through legal battles.
Although only five episodes have been released so far, Escaping NXIVM will grip you faster than you can imagine and you’ll find yourself screaming at Edmondson as she tells her harrowing story, which in hindsight seemed so avoidable. That’s the beauty of this podcast though. Instead of casting her aside and calling her “stupid”, we gain a huge insight into the subtle and devious way a “self-help group” gradually becomes a cult and how something you believe is helping you is doing you more damage then you can ever imagine.