What’s perhaps even more disappointing than a man taking advantage of a woman? A woman taking advantage of another woman.
Allison Mack, former actress and Smallville co-star, could be the poster child of misguiding and manipulating women. Yesterday, she pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of racketeering, and took full responsibility about her recruiting role in the sex-cult “Nxivm” (pronounced “Nexium”).
Mack brought women into the fold under the impression that the group focused on female-empowerment and self-help, but swiftly turned them into sex slaves to worship their “master” who is the founder, Keith Raniere.
In a 2017 The New York Times article, a former member detailed her accounts of a brutal initiation process where members were branded with Raniere’s initials, burning flesh off their hips in a 20-30 minute “ceremony.” As a way to blackmail the sorority-like cult, participants had to give up nude photos or other “collateral” that would defame them if released, making them feel trapped in this hell that was Nxivm.
Last April, Mack pled not guilty in court to sex trafficking and forced labor charges, but this month changed her plea to guilty. She is facing sentencing this September.
In a sobbing confession in Brooklyn court on Monday, Mack said, “I have come to the conclusion that I must take full responsibility for my conduct and that’s why I am pleading guilty today,” the Cut reported. She later went on to say, “I believed Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people. I was wrong.”
While a part of me feels almost bad for Mack because of the brainwashing she probably endured, another part of me feels hurt for the betrayal she's caused women since she joined Nxivm in 2006. It seems almost strategic that Mack was put into her role as a recruiter for Raniere because as women, most of the time we feel safe, valued, and comforted by other women. And Mack, a woman with a successful track record in her industry, does not seem like the kind of person who would co-sign women to a secret sisterhood, but I suppose we were all duped.
Generally, women are more trusting of other women, and perhaps this is why the cult lasted so long; women like Mack preyed on the built friendships and relationships with other members, and took advantage of them because that was the last thing they would expect. When we use women as weapons against other women, it prompts the question, “Who can we trust?” In a time where we want to support, believe, and see other women succeed, Mack and this entire cult has failed women and society everywhere.
Top photo: CBC News screenshot
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Gretchen Sterba is an editorial intern for BUST. She recently graduated with a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago with a double major in magazine journalism and creative nonfiction. Her most profound accomplishment is getting a Michael Scott tattoo. Follow her on Instagram at @gretchensterba