As many of you might know, learning about cults is a guilty pleasure of mine. For my latest book, No Sacred Cows, I interviewed several current and former members of the Westboro Baptist Church, as well as the great grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.
In addition to reading about cults, I also enjoy watching the show Wilfred, a comedy-drama about mental health (the one with the Australian man in a dog costume). So imagine my surprise when I learned that Allison Mack, who plays Amanda in Wilfred and Chloe Sullivan in Smallville, was charged and arrested for crimes related to a disturbing sex cult.
Actor Allison Mack was arrested this morning on an indictment unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging her and Keith Raniere, also known as “Vanguard,” with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. Mack will be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak. Raniere was previously arrested on a complaint and ordered detained. Raniere will be arraigned on a date to be determined.
“As alleged in the indictment, Allison Mack recruited women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit. This Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting predators who victimize others through sex trafficking and forced labor.”
As a cult enthusiast, I decided to look into the story more and see what Mack and Raniere were actually accused of. The more I looked into this particular “self-help” cult, the weirder things got.It turns out “Nxivm,” pronounced NEX-i-um, is the umbrella organization under which Raniere created several programs that he claimed were to promote self-help. Nxivm is a type of pyramid scheme, in which “members” pay thousands of dollars for courses and try to rise in the ranks through recruitment, but it also has a darker side.
As detailed in court filings, in 2015, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called “DOS,” an acronym that stands for a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,” or “The Vow.” DOS operated with levels of women “slaves” headed by “masters.” Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid. Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid. Other than Raniere, all members of DOS were women. Mack is one of the women in the first level of the pyramid immediately below Raniere.
Mack and other DOS masters recruited DOS slaves by telling them that they were joining a women-only organization that would empower them and eradicate purported weaknesses that the Nxivm curriculum taught were common in women. Mack and other DOS masters concealed Raniere’s status at the top of the pyramid from new recruits.
This, my friends, is the definition of a dangerous cult. It uses false promises, secrecy, and lofty ideals to trick women into sexual slavery. The cult also requires women to provide “collateral,” in the form of nude photos or other damaging information, to ensure secrecy and compliance, which is another telltale sign of a cult.
If convicted, Raniere and Mack face a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum life sentence.