It was a crime that just became more and more shocking as new details emerged. What started as a purported “self-help” group devolved into a sex cult of depravity and perversion.

It was known as Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um). Last year, the group’s founder and ersatz cult-leader, Keith Raniere, was convicted on charges stemming from his running of the group. A harem of sexual “slaves” were branded with his initials on their pelvises and coerced into having sex with him.

Raniere’s “No. 2,” in Nxivm, was well-known “Smallville” actress Allison Mack.

Raniere recently appeared on NBC’s Dateline in his first public interview since his 2018 arrest. At one point in the interview, he specifically addressed the branding of the women. He said at first he was “embarrassed” and then honored by the female members in the cult who had his initials branded into their skin.

On the same program, the doctor (a Nxivm member) who actually performed the branding defended the practice, saying, the women “wanted” the marks and were not “harmed.”

The woman, Dr. Danielle Roberts, said she was not acting in her capacity as a physician when she branded members involved in the master-slave sex practices of Nxivm.

“They had no idea who the branding technician was going to be, you know? There was no patient-physician relationship,” Roberts said in the Dateline interview, which aired on Friday, Feb. 26.

She insisted that she never believed she was causing anyone “harm” by branding the women.

“I think pain and harm are two different things. You know, I think people are making an assumption that people were harmed. Nobody was harmed in this,” Roberts said.

“These women wanted this. They asked for this. You know, I mean, and I understand now that narrative has changed, and they’re saying other things,” she added.

She also claimed the women “were laughing” at the time.

During Raniere’s 2018 trial, members of the cult who testified against him said that they were branded in their pubic region with an insignia that looked like the letters K and R backwards during a nude ceremony — though several have said they didn’t realize that’s what the design was until they received it.

Regarding how he felt about the branding, Raniere told Dateline, “In a way, [I felt] almost embarrassed. If it was Albert Einstein’s initials, no one would care. And then I thought, if it was Brad Pitt’s initial, maybe you’d have some jealous husband. But that’s not what I’m like. So I took it as an honorary thing, a tribute thing. And that brand was going to be tattooed over anyway. It was symbolic.”

While he denied being the mastermind behind the branding, he said he felt “responsible” for “all the damages” he participated in. “It’s not just a matter of, ‘Did I cause it all myself?’ I’m involved in the cause of it. And for that, that haunts me forever,” he said.

Former DOS slave-master Lauren Salzman described the branding as “the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison after being convicted on charges that included racketeering and sex trafficking.

Dr. Roberts has not been charged with any crimes. But her medical license is under review because of her involvement with Raniere and Nxivm.

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