In a wide-ranging new piece breaking down the philosophies and structure of NXIVM, a self-improvement program accused of becoming a sex cult, The New York Times Magazine claims that Smallville actress Allison Mack claimed responsibility for the group's notorious practice of branding women.
Both Mack and Keith Raniere, who headed the group for years, have been indicted on charges related to sex trafficking, conspiracy, and forced labor -- but because the group itself is fairly small and tight-knit, the Times article is the most elaborate look yet at the organization and its people.
"In her apartment, I was surprised to hear [Allison] Mack take full responsibility for coming up with the DOS cauterized brand," Vanessa Grigoriadis reports. "She told me, 'I was like: 'Y'all, a tattoo? People get drunk and tattooed on their ankle 'BFF,' or a tramp stamp. I have two tattoos and they mean nothing.' She wanted to do something more meaningful, something that took guts."
That, apparently, led to a brand, which burned Raniere's initials into the flesh of women under the group's control.
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.
"When the cauterized brand was introduced, it was a scary experience, like any real rite of passage, but some of them kidded around through it," Mack reportedly continued. "Even if they cried when they were getting the brand; even if they wore surgical masks to help them with breathing in the smell of burning flesh; even if the brand was much larger than they were told it would be and looked like an ancient hieroglyph; even if they were in a state of sheer terror, they were still able to transcend the fear and cry out to one another: 'Badass warrior bitches! Let's get strong together.'"
Mack is currently out of jail on $5 million bail following her arraignment. Another Smallville actress, Kristin Kreuk, had to publicly disavow Nxvium after reports surfaced that she was part of it as well.
"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."5comments
The prosecution of Mack's case is being handled by the Office's Organized Crime and Gangs Section.
Raniere was arrested in Mexico back in March, and when video leaked online, it showed Mack arguing with the authorities on his behalf. Both Raniere and Mack face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years in prison if convicted on the current charges.