Actress Jessica Joan had a long-awaited closing moment when she read her victim impact statement during the June 30 sentencing hearing for Allison Mack, the “Smallville” star who became a leader of the sex cult linked to the now convicted Keith Raniere and his NXIVM Organization.
Joan was the victim of NXIVM previously identified in court documents only as “Jay”. Joan decided to reveal her identity as part of Mack’s conviction in an effort to move on to the next chapter in her life. She recently launched a podcast, “The Untouchable Jessica Joan” and has a book of the same name due out next month.
“I am an extremely strong person,” Joan said. Varietyhours after speaking in the Brooklyn courtroom of U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis. “I think there’s a reason I was put in this situation to handle it the way I did. It had an emotional impact. At the same time, I try to rebuild my life and make sense of everything.
An actress and poet, Joan has spent the past three plus years on call for the FBI and Federal Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York as they put together the case against Raniere, who was sentenced to 120 years in prison l last year for sex. charges of trafficking, racketeering, fraud and conspiracy. Mack, who cooperated with prosecutors, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Joan was recruited by Mack into the group that claimed to be a women’s empowerment initiative, alternatively known as “DOS” or “The Vow,” but turned out to be a way of recruiting sex partners for Raniere. . The group revolved around twisted “master” and “slave” relationships between various women. In her leadership role, Mack asked Joan to attempt to seduce and have sex with Raniere, in part to help Joan recover from childhood trauma and sexual abuse suffered in her youth.
Mack’s instruction to have sex with Raniere was the shock Joan needed to break with the NXIVM organization. She lived with the group in her compound in upstate New York, but fled to her native Hawaii. She was not among the group members who endured the human marking ritual that left them with a symbol incorporating Raniere’s initials in the pelvic region. She also did not have sex with Raniere.
Joan, who now lives in Los Angeles, has had a long journey through the legal system and her own emotional roller coaster. The chance to speak out and look Mack in the eye as Joan described the pain Mack inflicted was intimidating but necessary, she said.
“Having all eyes on you and feeling all the energy in the room is something that’s hard to explain,” Joan said. “There was a lot of adrenaline in my body. It was exciting and intense, but it was also like a feeling of closure and I’m grateful for that.
Joan also has praise and deep appreciation for the work done by FBI investigators and Eastern District prosecutors. “This (US attorney’s) office is filled with incredibly unsung heroes who have become like family to me,” she said. “They are really beautiful people dedicated to justice.”
Joan’s work on the case meant sacrifices. Joan told the judge in her remarks that she used the last of her unemployment checks to cover the cost of her trip to New York City from Los Angeles to speak at Mack’s hearing.
Mack and Raniere were arrested in early 2018. A few months later, Joan received a letter of apology from Mack which she found “dishonest”.
“I didn’t feel there was any real feeling of feeling or remorse. It was a bunch of empty words, ”Joan said. When she made eye contact with Mack in court, “the look in her eyes was just blank. There was no feeling – just a complete disconnection, ”she said.
In Joan’s opinion, Mack should have received a long sentence given the seriousness of his actions with Raniere. Joan said she was ‘livid’ last week when she read reports that Mack was not seeking jail time from the judge because she was studying at UC Berkeley and had changed her life, according to the memo defense on conviction.
“The judge himself expressed that he was grappling with his own inner turmoil,” Joan said. “He feels the gravity of the abuse and the pain the victims have suffered, but at the same time, he sees Allison as a victim of Keith, which is also true.”
Joan spent a lot of time trying to figure out how Raniere and some of his relatives at NXIVM could recruit smart, accomplished people into an organization that was clearly a cult of personality. This introspection led her to realize just how insidious Raniere’s psychological manipulation of hundreds of followers was.
“It attracted good people who had colorful stories who wanted to heal and help others,” Joan said. “They incorporated that into a personal development program based on humanities and ethics. They focused on people who wanted to be successful and who wanted to go beyond their own limits and thus serve the greater good. That’s what makes it so bad. If you join the mafia or a gang, you know what you are getting into.
The process of breaking away from a cult-like experience is exhausting, Joan said. “The only way people will be okay with this is to do the inner work and accept the things that have happened. And to have forgiveness for yourself.
Joan’s credits as an actor include the 2013 IFC feature film “Contracted” and the web series “This Indie Thing” and “Run DMZ”. Now that the Mack lawsuit is over, Joan is focused on stepping up her acting work in addition to defending victims of mental and physical abuse.
“I went public with the intention of using my story to help other people,” Joan said. “I am no longer held back by trauma and baggage. I am free for a future that promises to be very bright.