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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