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The Smallville actress, 35, spoke with the New York Times Magazine this winter as part of the publication’s deep dive into the self-help group Nxivm. The article, which was released on Wednesday, features interviews with many high-ranking Nxivm members — including its founder, Keith Raniere. It’s the first time in 14 years the group has granted access to a journalist.
Female members freely discuss a group within the group called DOS (short for a Latin phrase that roughly translates as “Master Over Slave Women”), which they describe as a “sorority.” Mack said DOS 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.”
It’s a group, she declared, that’s all about female empowerment. “I found my spine, and I just kept solidifying my spine every time I would do something hard,” Mack passionately declared.
Mack was so passionate about DOS, she said, that it was her idea to brand members with a cauterized pen. “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 boasted, explaining she wanted to do something more meaningful and that took guts. (Members were held down and branded with a symbol that featured Raniere’s and Mack’s initials.)
The actress broke down how joining the sorority worked. The woman who invited you to the group was your master or the “representation of your conscience, your higher self, your most ideal.”
Masters would help their “slaves” count calories to save them from emotional eating. (Prosecutors have alleged the extreme diet was to please Raniere, who preferred incredibly thin women.) Masters would also dictate acts of “self-denial,” like being told to abstain from orgasms, and they ordered slaves to do “acts of care” for their masters. An example of that might be fetching coffee. There’s no mention of slaves allegedly being ordered to sleep with Raniere.
In court documents filed last week, a woman detailed her chilling experience in DOS. In one instance, “Jane Doe 1” claimed she was blindfolded and taken to a shack where she was tied to a table while someone performed sexual acts on her. She also alleged she was intimate with Raniere on a number of occasions.
It’s quite a different picture than the one Mack painted about the group. In Mack’s view it’s “about devotion” and “like any spiritual practice or religion.” When she was asked if she believed in free will, Mack replied, “You’re dedicating your life one way or another.”
An estimated 150 women ultimately joined, with slaves calling each other “sisters.” Mack said each circle was “like a little family.”
It sounds more like family that blackmailed you if you tried to leave.
When joining DOS, members had to give over “collateral.” Something they would not want revealed —like a naked photo or a deed to a house — because it could be damaging to themselves and/or someone close to them. Mack, who was allegedly Raniere’s personal slave, had to provide this as well. When charges were brought against her in April, prosecutors alleged that the “collateral” connected with her included a letter addressed to social services claiming abuse of her nephews and a contract saying that future children birthed by her would be his. Of course, these are details Mack didn’t mention in her interview.
Author Vanessa Grigoriadis, who spoke with Raniere for hours, says he did not show remorse about DOS or even necessarily admit to it. He also scoffed at the idea he brainwashed anyone, saying it wasn’t scientifically possibly, but that indoctrination can be positive. “What is wrongful about my indoctrination?” he asked, rhetorically.
Friends of Mack’s believe she’s so brainwashed, it’s possible she will take the fall for Raniere by saying DOS was all her idea. Mack and Raniere have been charged with sex trafficking, sex-trafficking conspiracy, and forced-labor conspiracy. They have both pleaded not guilty. Each could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. A status update has been set for June, with a trial date of Oct. 1.
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