How Allison Mack Got Involved With An Alleged Sex Cult
When Smallville ended after 10 seasons in 2011, Allison Mack found herself a little adrift, having played journalist and town truth-seeker Chloe Sullivan for almost the entirety of her adult life.
“I was 28 and I felt not quite sure where I was going or who I was. I think that was probably the most bumpy transition,” Mack told Fine Magazine for its March 2017 issue. Asked how she managed to navigate that change in her life, she said, “I have a wonderful teacher and mentor named Keith Raniere, who really gave me some incredible guidance.”
She was appearing in a play, Red Velvet at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, theater being an art Raniere had suggested she pursue.
“I think everyone needs a mentor. I don’t think any of us really know the answers without a little bit of wisdom. If you aren’t willing to be humble enough to seek wisdom from other people, I think you’re missing a lot of really incredible opportunities to build a certain amount of depth and value in your life that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have somebody to help guide you. I chose to have this mentor in my life, and I was talking to him about my struggle, confusion, and not knowing what to do. He said, ‘Why don’t you take some time and think about? Give yourself some space to figure out who you are now.’ So that’s what I did.”
At the time, maybe, that just sounded like glowing praise. Now, in hindsight… more like indoctrination?
Mack was arrested last week on federal sex trafficking charges, accused of recruiting women for a sex slavery ring led by Raniere, who was arrested last month near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Mexican and American authorities having tracked him to a $10,000-a-week villa inside a luxurious gated community. According to authorities, the women he was living with sped after the agents as they left with him in their car, apparently reluctant to let Raniere—called “The Vanguard” by his acolytes—go.
According to the federal criminal complaint filed against him, as the leader of the Albany, N.Y.-based NXIVM (pronunced “nexium,” like the heartburn medication) since 2003, Raniere “maintained a rotating group of fifteen to twenty women with whom he maintains sexual relationships. These women are not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationship with Raniere. Some of the Nxivm curriculum included teachings about the need for men to have multiple sexual partners and the need for women to be monogamous.”
The women were also submitted to a branding ritual, in which a symbol integrating Raniere’s initials was seared into their skin near their pubic region, the complaint further alleged.
Overall, under the guise of offering self-help and what amounted to life coaching, the Feds charged, Raniere was running an elaborate pyramid scheme in which women paid for his tutelage and could only move up the ladder of personal growth by forking over more cash, with a five-day workshop costing upward of $5,000. “The Nxivm curriculum taught that women had inherent weaknesses including ‘overemotional’ natures, an inability to keep promises and embracing the role of victim,” the complaint continued, per the Washington Post. “Nxivm operates largely in secrecy. Nxians were often required to sign non-disclosure agreements and to make promises not to reveal certain things about Nxivm’s teachings.”
Within NXIVM, the complaint charges, was DOS, a “secret society” within the group made up of women who were considered to be struggling in the program and were then tasked with recruiting other women to join—and to join the potential members had to provide “collateral” in the form of compromising photos or videos, or other information about themselves or family members that they would not want made public should they be inclined to cut ties with DOS (the name derived from a Latin phrase that could translate as “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions” or “The Vow”) or refuse sex with Raniere.
“DOS operates as a pyramid with levels of ‘slaves’ headed by ‘masters,’” the charges continued. “Slaves are expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owe services not only to their own masters but also to masters over them in the DOS pyramid.”
And they weren’t just used for sex, but for banal errands such as coffee runs, and they’d be asked to perform weird, random challenges, like holding a plank position on demand, the complaint further alleged. Also according to the charges, Raniere would have some women severely cut their caloric intake because he preferred sexual partners who were very thin.
A letter posted on the NXIVM website late last year from Raniere in response to a New York Times investigation and other reports which included interviews with women who said they were branded and subjected to other abusive treatment, reads, “I am deeply saddened by the recent news relating to our organization, a number of key people involved, and past friends.
“The picture being painted in the media is not how I know our community and friends to be, nor how I experience it myself. However, as an organization and as individuals, we felt it was imperative that we hire experts to ensure there is no merit to the allegations.
“Over the past months, there have been extensive independent investigations performed, by highly qualified individuals, and they have firmly concluded that there is no merit to the allegations that we are abusing, coercing or harming individuals. These allegations are most disturbing to me as non-violence is one of my most important values.”
Raniere also maintained that he wasn’t associated with “the sorority,” nor was it a part of NXIVM, the umbrella company comprising Executive Success Programs Inc., the professional and personal coaching business he co-founded in 1998 with former nurse, therapist and hypnosis expert Nancy Salzman—the “Prefect” to his “Vanguard,” whose upstate New York home was also reportedly searched by the FBI in March.