Anthony Nippy Ames and Sarah Edmondson producing their new podcast, “A Little Bit Culty” (Submitted)

Anthony Nippy Ames and Sarah Edmondson producing their new podcast, “A Little Bit Culty” (Submitted)

B.C. survivors of NXIVM cult launch podcast about experience

The Vancouver-based couple wants to help people avoid destructive cults through their story

Two survivors of a cult which got worldwide attention in recent years have started a podcast called A Little Bit Culty, hoping to help other people learn from their experience.

Vancouver couple Sarah Edmondson and Anthony “Nippy” Ames were members of NXIVM, which from the fringes seemed like a personal development program. It had leadership training, mentoring opportunities and a very charismatic leader.

It took them 12 years to hit a breaking point, when Edmondson was branded with what they later learned was the initials of that charismatic leader Keith Raniere. That incident brought all their doubts and questions to a head, and they left the cult in 2017.

NXIVM founder Keith Raniere was sentenced by a New York federal court in October 2020 to 120 years in jail for racketeering, sex trafficking and more. Several members of his inner circle were also convicted.

Edmondson and Ames told Black Press Media they didn’t know any of the criminal abuse that was going on at the top; they thought NXIVM was a personal development program, albeit with some admittedly unconventional methods. It’s since been called a sex-cult.

RELATED: NXIVM guru gets 120 years in prison in sex-slaves case

Their podcast is grounded in what they’ve learned since leaving the cult through the help of therapists who have put a language to what happened. Some episodes will feature experts, others will interview survivors and some delve into the curriculum of NXIVM’s Executive Success Programs to examine what teachings drew them in and where things got “culty.”

The pair, now parents of two, have spent years “de-programming” their minds, and processing various reactions of shame, embarrassment and rage.

“Like, what did I miss? How did I think I was doing something good but ended up being aligned with someone who was abusing so many people? That was a really difficult,” Ames said.

While they didn’t know Raniere’s abusive side, they were close friends with some who did and lied about who Raniere was.

That deception is the first red flag Ames thinks of when he’s asked how to identify a destructive cult.

Not all cults are destructive, but many are designed to abuse power.

“That was the joke, we were like, yeah we’re in a cult, but were helping people. We were aware of the weird stuff, and we just thought it was funny and ridiculous. We didn’t know that the people closest to Keith were getting abused in the way they were,” Ames said.

Their split with NXIVM came gradually. Ames felt the mission to bring joy to the world wasn’t working. Morale was low, and the monthly training sessions weren’t having the same reach.

The decision to leave culminated in a ceremony where Edmondson and other recruits to a secret sisterhood were branded with Raniere’s initials. They didn’t know it was his initials, or that it would be a brand instead of a type of bonding tattoo.

“There is no word to describe my rage,” she said.

Since coming forward about being in NXIVM, the couple were interviewed on The Vow, an HBO documentary about the cult, and were involved in court cases that got Raniere and other top leaders behind bars.

They receive inquiries almost daily from people who think they may be in a cult. Some key indicators, the couple said, include if a person can leave the group without being harassed or hurt, if they can question the leader and their transparency.

To anyone concerned about a loved one who might be in a destructive cult, they say to approach with respect, curiosity and lots of questions.

“Say, I’ve seen these allegations, tell me about them. Like, how is that for you? What do you think about it? Is any of it true? What would you do if it was true? Stuff like that,” Edmondson said.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Podcasts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

BC Wildfire Service crew member Josh Hutchinson participated in a controlled burn above the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds on Tuesday, April 20 that was conducted in concert with the Williams Lake Fire Department. It was a good weather day for the burn, as on Wednesday, April 21, the BCWS is urging caution, with strong winds in the forecast Wednesday and Thursday for the region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Cariboo Fire Centre urges caution against outdoor burning due to strong winds forecast

Public, industry asked to consider postponing burning until calmer weather

Cathy McLeod (File Photo)
McLeod disappointed with first federal budget in two years

The 2021 Federal Budget released Monday, April 19 is “disappointing and politically opportunistic,”

A two-hectare fire is burning between Canim Lake and Hawkins Lake. (Photo submitted).
Homeowners urged to be cautious with outdoor burning

Multiple fires, tinder-dry conditions good reminders to be vigilant.

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Most Read