Last month, disturbing news surfaced surrounding former Smallville star Allison Mack. The actress, along with her former co-star Kristin Kreuk, was involved with Keith Raniere’s alleged sex cult called NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”), founded in 1998. One woman has come forward to share her own firsthand encounter with the cult in a new piece for Vulture.
Writing under the name Rachel Goldberg, the woman says NXIVM recruited her after she attended one of their parties. The first half of the article makes the party sound like a run-of-the-mill scam. She went to the apartment of someone from her book club, and the party was filled with successful, wealthy, prominent people trying to get Goldberg and a handful of other guests to sign up for what seems to be a really expensive self-help program. The "flagship series of workshops and community meetings" were dubbed Executive Success Programs, or ESP.
It's clear Goldberg had no idea the organization would later be accused of violent crimes like sex trafficking. Instead, "It hit a nerve. It made me feel eager, like there was something more for me, and also some kind of sorrow." The prospect of moving forward with NXIVM stuck with her for "weeks." In the end it was her bank account, and not her will, that prevented her from signing onto the cult—they charged "something like $3,000 for a five-day intensive program or $7,500 for 16 days."
Goldberg expresses shock at reading the recent discoveries in the news and finding out what kind of organization NXIVM actually was. “The day I read the New York Times story about the forced branding, I felt my guts seize up in total horror,” she writes, then recounting the people she met at that party. “I can’t say for sure that none of them knew. It would shock me to learn they had, but also, what can you really know?
The biggest takeaway from this firsthand account seems to be how normal the whole interaction appeared, rather than some sensationalized, sex-filled recruiting process. “What I learned from my brief, almost foray into sex-culting: Cults aren’t exclusively made up of freaks or damaged, desperate people (though they may leave that way),” she writes. “They consist of relatively normal individuals—and it’s for this reason that they’re so frightening.”
This account echoes the claims that Kreuk thought the cult was a self-help group. Kreuk claims she joined the group to overcome her shyness, but had no knowledge of illegalities taking place behind the scenes.
Allison Mack reportedly had a prominent role in the criminal side of the cult. She is believed to be Raniere’s right-hand woman, and has been indicted on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges for recruiting and blackmailing women for more than a year. Mack is currently out on bail, but faces anywhere from 15 years to life in prison for sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor charges.