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

Just Posted

THC boardmember Melody McLorie and municipal councillor Coun. Duncan McMaster celebrated the start of construction on a 14-unit affordable housing development at 700 Sharp Road in February, 2021. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino Housing Corporation asks for portion of town’s MRDT funds

Tofino’s hotels and resorts collect a 3 per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax from visitors

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Black Press Media file photo
Tofino sets municipal tax rates

Tofino’s residential property values are rising while businesses are declining.

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read