As a true crime fan-girl, you can bet I know plenty about cults. In my reviews, you’ve seen me mention references to several and applauding originality of authors who manage to create truly unique cults. To say that I think they don’t exist would be a lie – and on that, I have a few comments but they are likely more inflammatory so we’ll leave them be. They simply aren’t forerunners on the news. Like sex trafficking in the United States, cults have a way of not making it to the news. At least, not unless it has to do with Manson wanting parole, poorly made April Fools jokes about a new line of Heaven’s Gate Nikes, or pop culture references to “drinking the Kool-Aid” (which, mind you was actually Flav-R-Aid, a cheap knock-off brand). When my father asked me randomly if I ever watched Smallville, which I did not, and followed it up with the news regarding Clark Kent’s gal pal Chloe Sullivan, I stared at him in disbelief. After all, how do I react to that kind of news to my parents? Fortunately, he understands my morbid fascination with the macabre.
For those of you that have some how not seen or heard the news (and I missed this), news broke last month revealing a “secretive group where women are branded.” Under the guise of a self-help group to empower women, as seen in the article, these young to middle-aged victims were coerced into stripping themselves of any sense of power – an oddly contradictory notion. In fact, for the sake of ease, I’m going to quote the article directly:
To gain admission, they were required to give their recruiter — or “master,” as she was called — naked photographs or other compromising material and were warned that such “collateral” might be publicly released if the group’s existence were disclosed.
Now, I’m going to have to take a moment here to go on a little bit of a common sense rant – because that’s what I do. In what world does providing someone with the means to blackmail you create empowerment for anyone but that person? Feel free to damn me if you wish, but that should have been their first red flag. Following that up with being asked to sprawl out on a table and beg to be branded – something we do to cattle – and I can’t help but wonder what could have been going through the minds of these women that they allowed this.
Further reading of the aforementioned article tells us that the woman who came forward, Sarah Edmondson, was a proponent of Nxivm’s mission. Trusting her soon-to-be master (or mistress, in this case), a woman named Lauren Salzman, Edmondson allowed herself to be branded and initiated into the cult in March of this year. Now for the kicker: it wasn’t until May – two months later, more or less – that her Edmondson’s husband discovered the branding and they withdrew from the company. I’ve been through some tough shit, but I simply cannot fathom what sort of mindset one must be in to fall for such a scheme as this. In fact, if it weren’t for people like her husband, Anthony Ames, and another member of the cult, Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenburg’s daughter India, women like Edmondson might very well still be amongst members of this cult.
The worst part of this whole thing? It could have been stopped years ago. In 2012, Albany Times-Union published an article citing concern that the head of Nxivm, Keith Raniere, was leading a cult. The same article informs readers that Raniere has been tied up in legal battles since the ’90s. The ’90s, guys. It’s currently 2017. Imagine if something had been done about Raniere back then, as opposed to now? This sort of neglect is appalling – and the issues many have had with trying to get law enforcement involved goes to show just how much weight an entity, such as a corporation, has in America against its citizens. Let’s be honest, if companies were held accountable for their wrong-doings and reports of misconduct were taken a bit more seriously, things would be a lot different around here. Sure, there’s going to be a lot of crying wolf in these cases – disgruntled former employees coughing up bullshit phlegm is in no short supply – but what we’re looking at right here is something that could have been prevented. We’ve seen it in the past, we know the signs, and we choose to ignore them. That’s more of a “collective” we, rather than a me and you sort of thing by the way.
Those of you that know me best know that I don’t consider myself a Social Justice Warrior. There’s too much friction and debating to be had in that area, so I tend to let those sleeping dogs lie. As a person of color and female though, this strikes me as yet another prime example of what some people can get away with simply . We have a white man of power and influence, whispering sweet lies and coercing women who need help, that has been reported several times, running one hell of a show. If Raniere had been anything else, this likely would have been toppled over ages ago. This video from the Albany Times-Union site (which I can’t embed) gives a little bit more insight into Raniere’s character.
At least one cult expert said Raniere directs one of the most extreme cults he has ever studied and has likened Raniere to David Koresh, who most Americans link with images of a burning cult compound packed with women and children. Raniere has denied that NXIVM is a cult.
So then, where does Allison Mack come in? Earlier this week, The Sun reported a source claiming that one of the girls involved is a “well-known [television] actress.” That actress, unnamed by The Sunrevealed by , was Daily Mail to be none other than Mack. Mack, as it turns out, is so completely and totally brainwashed by this cult that she’s become its second-in-command. At least, that’s what the news is saying. I’m still back here trying to process how anyone can fall victim to such things, despite the mountains of evidence that show just that in the past. I guess I’m too busy trying to see the good in everyone and blissfully unaware of how bad people can even operate without feeling a modicum of guilt.
If you’ve clicked any of the sources I’ve linked, you’ve probably seen the one entitled “SLAVE CULT: Smallville actress Allison Mack ‘brainwashed into recruiting up to 25 women into the terrifying NXIVM slave cult where they are beaten and branded’.” In this regard, and perhaps largely because of this title in particular, I’ll definitely be keeping up with future developments. Why? Because this is an insult to a woman’s independence if it’s being used to deter readers from faulting Mack for her involvement in this gruesome cult. I’m not into the whole ideology that women must be brainwashed, weak-minded, or under emotional stress in order to commit heinous crimes and I’m not about to let some television star play the victim without sufficient evidence to prove that she bears no control over her own actions.
It’s this mindset that has foolishly led many people to believe that there’s no such thing as female serial killers – and yes, there are people out there that believe that. I’m livid with anger, heartbreak, and disgust, for a multitude of reasons. Namely the victims who felt they needed to turn to Nxivm for help and empowerment to overcome their perceived shortcomings as opposed to a counselor; the downplaying of Mack’s involvment simply because she’s a woman and “brainwashed”; and the sheer fact that this whole thing could have been prevented. Seriously, when are we going to start holding people accountable for their actions instead of passing the blame?