Why I Have Empathy For Accused Sex-Slave Leader Allison Mack

Why I Have Empathy For Accused Sex-Slave Leader Allison Mack July 27, 2018
Photo Credit Shutter Stock


When the New York Times broke the NXIVM story that included sexual slaves, branding, and forced labor, I became hooked on this story. Initially, I watched documentaries hosted by A&E on the cult, and the 48 hours investigation detailing the same allegations. Over the months, I have scoured the internet for all stories related to NXIVM. While all the outlets share the horrific details of what the cult leaders did to members, I’ve been hard-pressed to find information about the female leaders in the group.

I never watched the Allison Mack on Smallville. In police arrested Allison Mack for her role in the cult. I immediately recognized her face. Instantly I wondered how such a pretty and petite woman could do such horrific things to other women. Quickly I realized that not only did she victimize other women, but she too, was victimized by Keith Raniere.

Keith Raniere had a history of manipulating people even before he started NXIVM in 1998. In 1989, Keith founded a Multi-Level marketing company called Consumer’s Byline. The company promised discounts on products to old customers. They also gave commission to individuals that brought in recruits. By 1994, the state of New York sued Keith Raniere for running a Pyramid scheme. The court ordered restitution of $40,000.

When he founded NXIVM with Nancy Salzman in 1998, he already knew how to run a pyramid scheme, recruit members, and manipulate consumers. Together they created a series of Executive Success Programs, that they pitched to business professionals. The seminars aimed to help business executives continue their success in their careers and lives.

Like many cults, most don’t start out dangerous and destructive. However, the classes taught by Keith Raniere helped him to groom and manipulate members to as he pleased. The seminars achieved Thought reform of members.

NXIVM and Raniere targeted Allison Mack in 2006 for her celebrity and poise on camera. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Raniere and his crew gave her red carpet treatment. She was love-bombed and given VIP treatment at her first JNESS conference. NXIVM had their sights set on her, and over the years she was groomed to enter Raniere’s inner circle.

In the same report, friends describe Mack as searching for something more meaningful than acting. She had spent 20 years in acting. In 2006, she was searching for the larger purpose of her life. Mack never attended college, and friends said this lead to her feeling insecure. She often sought out other means to expand and obtain wisdom. For a cult leader like Raniere, she was the perfect target.

Over the years of her involvement in the organization, Raniere reformed and changed her thoughts and personality. In her eyes, she believed she was doing good for the planet. Raniere was her master, and he had convinced his harem of women they were going to save the world with his super sperm.

According to reports, Allison Mack was instrumental in the evolvement of the secret sorority within NXIVM. Women from the inside even say she came up with the idea of branding the women. She also admitted coming up with the idea in a New York Times interview.

Given everything I have read on the topic, I have found it extremely hard to see Allison Mack as a villain. Naturally, I am aware of the damage she inflicted on other women. However, I know that Raniere groomed her for over 12 years, and it is hard for me not to see her victimization in this story.

She was young, impressionable, and looking for direction in her life. Raniere calculated every step of her indoctrination. Over time, she became a person her friends didn’t even recognize.

It’s easy for the press and for other women to lash out at Allison Mack. She committed horrible, horrible crimes against other women. However, as a survivor of sexual assault, I understand how mind control and manipulation can change your behavior. I’m empathic to the fact that despite the despicable crimes she committed, she is not entirely evil.

Raniere preyed on her vulnerabilities. He convinced her that what they were doing was for the betterment of the world. After years of drinking the kool-aid, Raniere converted her into a perpetrator.

Ultimately, I believe that Allison Mack is a mixture of good and evil. She was an impressionable person that got involved in the wrong group. They brainwashed her and got her engaged in elaborate human trafficking and forced labor crime ring.

Many of us refuse to believe we can get involved in a group like NXIVM. However, it’s easier than we realize to become involved in cults. We wish to vilify Allison Mack because it’s easier to see her as a terrible human than it is to see her as a victim and product of the leader’s manipulation. I am not discounting any of the crimes she has committed.

We cannot deny the accounts of the women branded by her and their stories of the torment they experienced at her hands. As much as these women were victims of Allison Mack, she was equally a victim of Keith Raniere.

The true maniacal and evil person in this entire equation is Keith Raniere. He is the man at the top, controlling and teaching all the women beneath him. Every woman that police arrest, this week four more women got charged,are a product of his manipulation and deceit.

We can hate their crimes, but can we genuinely hate these women?

They are all good and evil. All the women were exploited, hurt, and abused by Raniere over many years. They also committed terrible crimes.

When a victim becomes a victimizer, it is easy to lose our empathy for them. However, I chose to see these women in both lights. I have great compassion for their victimization, and incredible detest for what they did to others.

Finally, the real story in all of this is that we cannot lose sight that Raniere is the master puppet of this entire organization.

Raniere is the real villain. The women are just products of his master plan.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    > … police arrested Allison Mack for her role in the cult.

    Good luck with that. It’s a religion, and all parties are adult volunteers. Then there’s the RFRA.

  • what do you mean?

  • Jim Jones

    Where’s the crime?

  • There are more than 5 links detailing her crimes. She was part of an elaborate pyramid sex slave/master cult. They branded women against their will, held them in captivity, and trafficked them

  • Jim Jones

    Not according to the reports I have heard/seen. There was only the appearance of a lack of consent, like an S/M sex club.

  • Oh no, one woman was held against her will for 2 years. They stole email addresses, blackmailed and threatened members that wanted to leave, and trafficked them for Raniere’s pleasure.

  • Jim Jones

    Then they’re up shit creek. I just recorded the whole A&E series on cults and did not see this (but maybe I missed it). My read was that they had the ‘blackmail’ material (voluntarily provided) and the threat to use it was assumed, not expressed.

  • Watch the A&E documentary. Seriously. Also, new details dropped today after 4 more women were charged. Women were threatened repeatedly if they wanted to leave. They were starved, and coerced into sex with Raniere. None of them were branded by choice. They were lured to the branding under false pretenses.

  • Kishan Aria

    Sad tale

  • it’s a horrible story all around

  • Kishan Aria

    It is

  • guerillasurgeon

    Some friends of mine got in on the fringes of one of these cults. If anything it was worse than this one, because it involved organised paedophilia, though they obviously had rationalisations for it. They eventually put the cult leader in jail. He was 65 at the time and had been doing that shit for more than 20 years. I actually met him a couple of times, and it seemed to me he preyed on people who had low self-esteem or who are going through difficult times. Funnily enough, his daughter-in-law was a prominent medical academic whose research papers included opposition to mandatory reporting of child sex abuse. She was also instrumental in advising – an admittedly very receptive – government to restrict counselling for sex abuse victims. I sometimes wonder how these people manage to get jobs. But they do.

  • Erik1986

    I understand wealthy equestrian and Seagram’s heiress Claire Bronfman is/was involved. Uh…branding? So if you do it to horses, it’s okay to do it to women? Not.

  • The branding came from Allison Mack. Her Idea. Of the 4 additional women charged yesterday – Claire Bronfman was one. She was released on $100 Million dollar bond

  • They were grooming children in this cult. Part of the indictment includes trafficking of children for sex. It is said a member brought 11 girls from Chihuahua, Mexico specifically for Raniere to have sex with. They were all under the age of 15 from what I read. He’s reported to have raped a 12 year old girl more than 60 times. He had a fondness for stick thin women with no chests….

  • Brian Davis

    Instantly I wondered how such a pretty and petite woman could do such horrific things to other women.

    What does being pretty and petite have to do with it? Pretty women can’t be awful people?

  • it was my IMMEDIATE reaction. I know pretty people can do bad things.

  • Morgan Lefaye

    I am thankful I’m a fat woman with big boobs!

  • Morgan Lefaye

    See Karla Homolka.

  • Apparently unless you look like a 12 year old – he’s not interested. I’m safe.

  • Morgan Lefaye

    Me too. Ickickickickick!

  • Freethinker

    Hate how this kind of shit is giving the BDSM community a bad rap. The vast majority of these women engaged in a consensual power play dynamic over many years. It’s easy for normal, straight up people to see this as some horrible deviancy and for the women involved consensualy, to now play the victim card in order to appear sufficiently chaste according to generally prevailing conservative standards of so called morality. Branding among BDSM couples or groups is actually not that uncommon, neither is polyamory.

    If this did not involve children it would have been a different story.

  • The rape of children, trafficking of them, and forcing women to live in rooms for 18 months to a year – is a whole different level. If you read the indictment – no one is playing the victim. These women were coerced, threatened, and physically assaulted.

  • Freethinker

    These things are always relative. Karla Homolka was the lead predator in the famous Paul Bernardo murders trial, something which she has admitted to her cell mates, but because she was a wide eyed, relatively attractive female who worked with the prosecutor while playing the victim card, she is now walking free while her ex is in prison for the rest of this life and rightfully so. When it comes to long term ongoing dynamics of this type the truth is often hidden behind societal expectations.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Then why the surprise? See those guys beating the shit out of and/or shooting innocent black kids? They are: ZOMG Xtian White Republicans.

    Does skinny blonde with a smile make you less likely to commit a crime? Lets talk about profiling some time…

  • Cozmo the Magician

    The fact that you are a ‘woman’ is all that matters to me. Some guys like other guys. No prob. Some women like other women. Lesbian porn is awesomesauce. Raping children? FFS , maybe we should have a death penalty for that. The molesters themselves have said that they can’t be changed.

    Ok, sorry.. I’m not really an advocate of execution. Just been reading some shit today that makes me wonder….

    Oh, I prefer padding on my partners. And as far as the mammary gland go.. well.. Joe Walsh sang it best (;


  • Morgan Lefaye

    That keeps me safe from Raniere the cult leader.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    You would also be safe from me. I know the words ‘consent’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’.

  • Missing the point. It was a reaction. If you read it’s not why I have empathy for her. Please read my comments

  • Victor Tobi

    Instantly I wondered how such a pretty and petite woman could do such horrific things to other women.

    Quickly I realized that not only did she victimize other women, but she too, was victimized by Keith Raniere.

    Because she is attractive and petite it was much easier for you to see her as a little victim. What if she was a he? What if she were a woman of color?

    Truth is that Mack is wicked. She is just as bad as Kieth. If you want to see her as a victim you need to see him as one too. You see Kieth as wicked, then she is too. Get this victim narrative out your head. If she were not pretty and petite and looked more like Harvey Weinstein you’d see her action more clearly for what they are.

  • Victor Tobi

    You think it’s not why you have empathy for her but it might be what’s driving the biased perspective. Be honest with yourself. If she looked like Harvey Weinstein you won’t even for a second entertain that narrative that she’s a victim herself. You’d just refer to her as despicable and leave it at that. You won’t care about the fact she felt insecure about not going to college or that she was looking for more meaning in life. There are so many ways she could have gone about that which don’t include oppressing other people. She chose the path she chose because she is just as arrogant, selfish, wicked and twisted as Keith, the cult leader. It’s hard for you to see this because her appearance looks so innocent and her smile is so bright.

  • That’s not true at all. As a victim, I see victimization in MANY people. It has nothing to do with her looks at all.

  • I didn’t say she wasn’t wicked. She’s wicked and evil, but she was also victimized by Raniere.

  • Victor Tobi

    BDSM is deviant behavior much like having sexual attraction to poop is deviant. The problem is that normal sexual stimuli is no longer enough to get that person excited. That’s a deviation from normal sexual behavior even if it manages to become popularized and normalized.

  • Victor Tobi

    People are of greater value than horses. So yes, it’s an added level of disgust when it is done to a person.

  • Freethinker

    “BDSM is deviant behavior”

    There are still many who believe anything outside of the missionary position for procreation purposes is deviant.

    “That’s a deviation from normal sexual behavior even if it manages to become popularized and normalized.”

    If something becomes “normalized” it is by definition no longer “deviant”.

  • this cult was not BDSM – this was abuse, trafficking, threats, coercion, and fraud

  • Victor Tobi

    If something becomes “normalized” it is by definition no longer “deviant”.

    Not so. The rate of young men who suffer from ED (erectile disfunction) is at an epic high. No matter how prevalent this epidemic becomes, it’s still deviant. If normal sexual stimulation no longer does it for you, no matter how many other people suffer with that same predicament it is still deviant sexual behavior. All it means is that the number of deviants has increased.

  • Freethinker

    Please learn the difference between deviation from the norm and deviant behavior. Also a difference between a medical condition and the psychology of attraction.

  • Victor Tobi

    I’m referring to cases of ED in young men (18-32 yrs) that’s been linked to over-exposure to hard pornography. When they abstained from porn they were able to start getting stimulated again by normal sexual exposure. That’s was not due to a medical condition it was due to deviant sexual behavior resulting from exposure to extreme sexual stimulation.

  • Victor Tobi

    I think there’s a connection. For someone to become desensitized to the point where trafficking, coercion, and violence is not shocking starts somewhere. BDSM and other forms of extreme sexual behavior are gateways into more and more extreme and dangerous behaviors. I’m referring to the perps, not the victims. If they weren’t desensitized to begin with, there’s no way it would have gotten as far as it did. It’s like the frog in the pot that slowly but surely boils to death without realizing the water is getting hotter because it happens so gradually. People like Kieth and Mack would have started with sexual behavior that seemed less shocking and in the pursuit of their sexual gratification would gradually go darker and darker.

  • escalating behavior is not uncommon in these situations – you are correct

  • “But there are blogs like yours, books, articles, etc., that are easily available for those who are interested.”

    I’m all for compassion, but at what point are people responsible for their own gullibility. Ignorance, insecurity and pliability are not valid excuses. Otherwise, no one is ever complicit in evil.

  • I agree with you! I do think she is 100% responsible. It’s just hard for me not to see how she got victimized at the start

  • Sam

    I’m not one not conform to the concept, “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” This is no different. I’m simply not keen on absolutes like that. Though I see where people who purport such rhetoric come from, as I try to do with almost anyone who harbors belief that differ from my own. Regarding this particular case, I must admit that I can somewhat see why people would view Mack as part of the problem considered she decided to refrain from telling anyone about this the minute that shed learned something like this is going. Then to think that she allegedly went on to recruit other women into this sex cult under the lure of feminism, then hell yes, she’s definitely very much part of the problem. Emphasis on the word “part” (and the word “allegedly”).

    Depending how this turns out, Mack may not have been the villain, but can still be called a villain. If you’re the type to use such blunt, premature descriptions such as that for intricate situations such as this. I’m not myself, but I see the value in a good extended metaphor. Besides, internet.

    While it can possibly be deduced from the still unfolding evidence that Raniere is the mastermind behind this whole scheme, that doesn’t take from the idea that Mack remains a minion. Admittingly going against evidence that has come forth, she may have not been at the head, but she played a large hand in all this. I don’t believe people entirely evil (absolute wariness again) but one reaches a point in your life where you cease being purely innocent. We’ve eventually come to accumulate actions that we’re unproud of, and it’s only a matter of time before they catch up to us.

    All that aside, I think we can both agree though that this doesn’t mean she isn’t worthy of empathy. (…Or dare to say even sympathy?) I don’t know where people get the idea that being involved or even completely and utterly guilty of a heinous crime dictates that you’re disqualified of empathy or sympathy.

    Sticking with the metaphor, hasn’t anyone ever heard of the sympathetic villain? Not everyone’s a Joker. Not everyone is a sadistic anarchist who feeds off pain and suffering and manipulates others solely for the sake of their own pleasure or amusement. Some are more along of, oh say, Magneto or Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Some are compelled by a hidden tragedy or inexplicable inner emptiness and now need a form of acceptance or self-expression which unfortunately results in a distorted mode of thinking and destructive behavior that spills out on and negatively affects others. Regardless of their individual backstory, all these characters are worthy of some degree of empathy and forgiveness and have the potential for redemption and clarity. But before the latter can happen, they must all receive punishment in accordance to the severity of their crimes.

    In the likelihood you haven’t guessed already, I was into this kind of thing when I was younger. Like just about anyone else who watched it, Chloe was my favorite character on Smallville, hence why my face cracks and my heart breaks every time I’ve come across this story. Which honestly, hasn’t been as often as think it should, but is as often as I thought it would. A lot memories were tainted this year for everyone.

    Lot a of mays to unpack here. Would come off lot more coherent if the case wasn’t ongoing and any/all the crimes been determined before even speculating a conclusion regarding the accused, the perpetrators, and their punishment begun. But once, again, internet.

  • kenofken

    That’s no ED, it’s normal refractory time. Nothing deviant about it.

  • Mark Green

    “Given everything I have read on the topic, I have found it extremely hard to see Allison Mack as a villain.”

    How the hell not? Especially with all the evidence you used later on.