Sarah Edmondson is breathing a sigh of relief after learning the man responsible for so much of her life's turmoil will spend the rest of his days behind bars.
In an exclusive interview with E! News, Edmondson, a former member of NXIVM who helped bring Raniere and his co-conspirators to justice, "I'm feeling a mixture of relieved, vindicated and safe for the first time in a long time."
Due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, Edmondson was unable to attend today's hearing and said she learned of Raniere's fate through a text. "I was hoping for life in prison," she shares. "So I didn't know you could get better than that."
Her initial thoughts on the judge's decision? "Relieved is the number one word on top of my head right now," Edmonson says. "I'm really shocked. I really thought for sure life in prison, so this is just like a big bonus." Prior to the hearing, Edmondson says she was "afraid he was going to find some loophole out of this."
She continues, "That was just in the back of my mind for so long, so just to have the world know who he really is and have the spotlight shot on him and all of his crimes and with such clarity is just massive closure for us that we can move on."
While former NXIVM members Mark Vicente and India Oxenberg read victim impact statement's in court, the former actress says she opted to send a video, explaining, "Keith has taken enough of my time."
As to how she chose to address the man she once called "Vanguard," Edmondson shares, "I called him a grifter, a parasite and a liar, among other things, and I think I got to have my final, final word with him. I said this is not a victim impact statement. This is a survivor statement."
With this chapter now closed, Sarah is able to reflect on how far she's come since escaping the alleged cult.
"I learned that I'm stronger than I ever could have known," she shares. "I've learned who I am, I've learned what my character is, which is so ironic because Keith tried to teach us about character and of course it meant that I needed to leave the group, and help take down the group in order to discover what my true character is really made of."
As viewers of HBO's docuseries The Vow know, Edmondson spent much of her life serving NXIVM and now she says she's in a "transition" having left that all behind.
She adds that her current "priority" is being there for her two children, who she welcomed with husband Anthony "Nippy" Ames, another ex member. "I've got two beautiful children who I want to pour all of my heart and my energy to," Sarah reflects. "They lost part of me to this fight, and I don't want that anymore."
Edmondson is also considering acting and voiceover work, both of which she has experience with. And she knows she won't be writing a second book, describing how authoring her first, Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life, was "too stressful."
But she also shares her hope of helping others, saying, "I definitely want to be an advocate for women in these positions."
Former Smallville actress Allison Mack has yet to be sentenced for her alleged participation in the scandal, which began in March 2018. To learn more about the events that have unfolded since then, read the story here.