Actress Allison Mack told a reporter that the branding of “slaves” in what federal prosecutors have alleged was a criminal sex-trafficking conspiracy was all her idea.
“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,’ ” Mack told a journalist working for the New York Times Magazine.
These and other insights emerge from the Times’ 8,600-word deep dive into NXIVM, a group based around Albany, New York that is often described as a cult. The interview with Mack took place before she and NXIVM’s leader, Keith Raniere, were indicted on federal sex-trafficking and forced labor charges.
“Under the guise of female empowerment, she [Mack] starved women until they fit her co-defendant’s sexual feminine ideal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Kim Penza told judge Cheryl Pollak during a court proceeding in the case.
According to the indictment, Mack allegedly served as Raniere’s pimp, using “fraud, force and coercion” to persuade women into joining a secret group called the “Vow” or “DOS” — short for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, Latin for “lord over the obedient female companions.”
Within DOS, there were “masters” and “slaves,” court documents allege. Masters required DOS slaves “to perform ‘acts of care’ for their masters and to pay ‘tribute’ to their masters,” according to Raniere's criminal complaint. An alleged DOS mastes, Mack recruited slaves for Raniere and herself, “by describing it as a women’s empowerment group or sorority,” according to prosecutors.
In order to be admitted to the group, prosecutors say, women had to proffer “collateral, which consisted of naked photographs, criminal confessions and other damaging information.” This collateral, which prosecutors say Mack collected and stored, prevented women “from leaving the group or disclosing its existence to others.”
Mack directed her slaves to have sex with Raniere, among other things, prosecutors say.
When Mack convinced women to join DOS, she lead ceremonies during which the women were branded with a symbol that, “unbeknownst to them,” included Raniere’s initials, prosecutors say. During the ritual, Mack “placed her hands on the slaves’ chests and told them to ‘feel the pain’ and to ‘think of [their] masters,’ as the slaves cried in pain,” according to prosecutors.
Mack largely admitted these facts in her published interview with the Times, but said she didn't force or coerce the women. Instead, she told the magazine that it was “about devotion” and “like any spiritual practice or religion.”
“You’re dedicating your life one way or another,” she said.
Mack said the group was about “women coming together and pledging to one another a full-time commitment to become our most powerful and embodied selves by pushing on our greatest fears, by exposing our greatest vulnerabilities, by knowing that we would stand with each other no matter what, by holding our word, by overcoming pain.”
She added that women in the group called each other “sisters,” and said each circle within the group was “like a little family.”
Mack’s lawyer, William McGovern, of Kobre & Kim, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
[Photo: JB Nicholas]