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Why 'Smallville' Actress Allison Mack Is Both A Victim And Perpetrator Of NXIVM Cult Crimes

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Allison Mack

Former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack has been sentenced to 3 years in prison for her involvement in Keith Raniere’s NXIVM — a sex cult masquerading as a self-help organization. 

Mack’s sentencing brings years of sex trafficking, abuse and manipulation within NXIVM to an end. 

In 2019, Mack plead guilty to racketeering charges for her role in the cult, which involved recruiting female “slaves,” directing them to engage in sexual relationships with Raniere, and gathering blackmail against the victims to force compliance. 

For his part, Raniere was convicted of sex trafficking and other charges and sentenced to 120 years in prison last year. 

Mack’s perverse role in the cult is a disturbing journey from victim to perpetrator, a journey on which the heinous crimes she inflicted on others are likely a reflection of her own experience. 

How Allison Mack became a victim and a perpetrator in NXIVM. 

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Mack’s descent into NXIVM, going from a doe-eyed child star to a sex slave “master,” began in 2010 when she was recruited to join the group. She joined in a period of unhappiness, asking Raniere to “make her a great actress again.”

Footage of their first meeting in the docuseries “The Vow” shows an emotional Mack tearing up in a conversation with the cult leader. This was a clearly vulnerable 23-year-old seeking a sense of belonging. 

Psychologist and psychoanalyst, Sandra E. Cohen, tells us most cults begin with vulnerable people being preyed upon, even if these people later become capable of preying on others.

“A cult draws its victims in because they are lost, searching for love or for something they are lacking. And a powerful, 'all-knowing' — narcissistic — leader has all the answers they don’t have,” she says. “If they do whatever they’re told, they just might get what they hunger for.”

Mack’s crimes are born from sadistic self-hatred.

Within NXIVM, Mack eventually became the leader of a secretive sex cult known as DOS, which stands for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or Master Over Slave Women.

Mack allegedly occupied the most senior “master” position with only Raniere above her, recruited other slaves, and organized for the women to be branded with Raniere’s initials using a hot cauterizing pen. 

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The desire to be liked by Raniere likely pushed Mack to replicate and many even exacerbate his disturbing behaviors. 

“Those in the ‘in-circle,’ chosen by the leader, have been handed a powerful and irresistible mechanism — in this case a sadistic one — to fight whatever self-doubt, self-hate, insecurity, craving for love, that they brought with them into the cult,” Cohen tells us. 

In many ways, Mack abuse of others was a projection of her own experience.

Cohen says the need to make victims of others is born from a desire to avoid seeing this in oneself.

“Others will grovel, others will be slaves to love, others will be ‘branded”’as the needy helpless ones who ‘will do anything’ for ‘love.’” she says. “And those in control, the abusers, unconsciously believe they’ve gotten off scot-free from feeling this kind of vulnerable need in themselves.”

Of course, this is not an attempt to absolve or excuse Mack.

Mack profusely apologized to her victims in a letter to the court, but one survivor insisted we continue to see her as “an evil sociopath, a menace to society and a danger to innocent human beings.” A judge also clarified that Mack had “willingly enslaved, destabilized, and manipulated other women.” 

Mack may have been helpless to some of her insecurities that made her vulnerable to Raniere, but that doesn’t mean she is innocent of her crimes.

As Cohen points out, “The behaviors, the cruelty and manipulation of others are not unconscious, but the reasons behind the behaviors are.”

Mack’s simultaneous status as victim and perpetrator was, in a sense, a perverse defense mechanism and means of gaining control in a powerless situation.

As Cohen puts it, “Projected into the victim is the fear or terror, the vulnerability, the insecurities, the self-hate, the shame, all the things the perpetrator-once-victim cannot bear to feel.”

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.