A New York “self help group” accused of being a front for a sex cult that abused its female members has suspended operations due to “extraordinary circumstances,” according to a statement posted online.
The “circumstances” facing the group, NXIVM, are almost certainly the public trial of “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, who was charged with multiple sex crimes related to her role as second-in-command of the group. NXIVM’s homepage now includes a statement, posted sometime after May 14, that explains the group has at least temporarily shuttered operations. That includes the admission of new members and all upcoming events. NXIVM did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
According to indictment of Mack and the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, NXIVM masqueraded as a self-help operation that, in actuality, coerced members into sex acts and even forced labor by “means of serious harm or threats of serious harm.”
Women, for example, have accused the group of branding them with Raniere’s initials. “Master, please brand me. It would be an honor,” the women were reportedly told to say. Former members have also accused the group of using nude photographs of its members as blackmail.
Prosecutors charged Raniere and Mack with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. Mack was released from jail on a $5 million bond; Raniere is being held without bail. Both of them pleaded not guilty to all charges. A trial is slated for Oct. 1.
Cover image: Allison Mack, center, charged with sex trafficking conspiracy, leaves Brooklyn Federal court with members of her legal team, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)