Former child star Mara Wilson, who identifies herself as a passing, friendly acquaintance of Smallville star Allison Mack from years ago, has weighed in on Mack's arrest for sex trafficking in a new story for Elle.
In the story, Wilson does not stand up for Mack, but does say that she understands the pathology that leads children raised in show business to become willing victims of the kind of scheme represented by NXIVM, the "self-help" group that law enforcement says has deteriorated, during the years Mack has been involved with it, from a pyrmid scheme to a sex cult.
"At first, I struggled to reconcile my memory of the sweet, smiling girl with the woman who had allegedly abused other women. She had seemed so eager to help others. If she really had done all that, had I just been mistaken? Had I ever really known her?" Wrote Wilson, who was candid about her own creative, personal, and psychological struggles growing up as a child star in her recent memoir, Where Am I Now?. "It was a shock to me. But I knew that even if a person becomes someone who does bad things, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are an intrinsically sadistic person. Maybe they’re caught up in emotions, or they’re trying to prove something to someone, or they’re 'just following orders.' If you have a cause you believe in strongly enough, you can justify anything done in the name of that cause. I also knew something about actors: They make great acolytes."
Wilson explains that the same emotional malleability and openness that makes for a great actor opens people up to being manipulated by charistmatic leaders, and says that she could see the glassy-eyed look of a true believer in a YouTube video in which Mack interviewed Keith Raniere, NXIVM's founder and the man she allegedly helped abuse dozens of women.
Besides being accused of human trafficking for the purposes of sex, Mack and Raniere have been accused of a broad array of crimes, including identity theft, extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, money laundering, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. She has pled not guilty to all of the charges, which could put her in jail for life.
Mack was reportedly Raniere's second-in-command, and was caught on video objecting to his arrest in Mexico earlier this year. For months there have been persistent rumors that NXIVM, ostensibly a self-improvement group, is acting as a front for a "sex cult" where women are branded as slaves for high-ranking members of the organization. Mack is accused of being the one who came up with the idea of the brands.
Following Raniere's arrest, Mack's longtime co-star Kristin Kreuk issued a statement clarifying that she had nothing to do with the organization, despite rumors to the contrary.
"When I was about 23, I took an Executive Success Programs/NXIVM ‘intensive,’ what I understood to be a self-help/personal growth course that helped me handle my previous shyness, which is why I continued with the program," Kreuk said on Twitter. "I left about five years ago and had minimal contact with those who were still involved. The accusations that I was in the ‘inner circle’ or recruited women as ‘sex slaves’ are blatantly false. During my time, I never experienced any illegal or nefarious activity. I am horrified and disgusted by what has come out about DOS. Thank you to all of the brave women who have come forward to share their stories and expose DOS; I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for you. I am deeply disturbed and embarrassed to have been associated with NXIVM. I hope that the investigation leads to justice for all of those affected."
NXIVM identifies itself as a self-help group -- "a multi-level marketing organization that offers personal and professional development seminars" -- but has been accused of sapping the resources of its members, holding people against their will, and branding malnourished women as part of a non-consensual domination/submission culture. The cult is called DOS, believed to be short for “dominus obsequious sororium," which is Latin for the "master over the slave women," according to a former publicist and several women who have come forward after getting out of it. Amid reports that Mack might be arrested soon, Kreuk was named as the one who recruited Mack into the group years ago, before leaving herself.
Rumors of NXIVM running a "sex cult" first surfaced in November of last year, with Mack as the news hook for numerous entertainment outlets.
"The allegations relayed in the story are built upon sources, some of which are under criminal investigation or already indicted, who act as a coordinated group," NXIVM said in a statement. "We will explore any and all legal remedies to correct these lies."