Washington [US], July 2 (ANI): Hollywood actor Jessica Joan recently had a long-awaited moment of closure when she read her victim's statement at the June 30 sentencing hearing for actor Allison Mack.
According to Variety, Mack had become a leader of the sex cult tied to the now-convicted Keith Raniere and his NXIVM organisation.
Joan was the NXIVM victim previously identified in court documents only as 'Jay'. She decided to reveal her identity as part of Mack's sentencing in an effort to move on to the next chapter of her life.
She had recently launched a podcast, 'The Untouchable Jessica Joan' and has a book by the same name due out next month.
Hours after she spoke in the Brooklyn courtroom of US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Joan told Variety, "I'm extremely strong person. I think there is a reason why I was put in this situation to handle it in the way that I have. It took an emotional toll. At the same time, I'm trying to put my life back together and make sense of everything."
An actor and poet, Joan has spent the past three years-plus being on call for the FBI and federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York as they built the case against Raniere.
He was sentenced to 120 years in prison last year on sex trafficking, racketeering, fraud and conspiracy charges. Mack, who cooperated with prosecutors, received a three-year sentence.
Mack had recruited Joan into the group that purported to be a women's empowerment initiative, alternately known as 'DOS' or 'The Vow', but turned out to be a vehicle to recruit sex partners for Raniere. The group revolved around twisted "master" and "slave" relationships among various women.
In her role as a leader, Mack directed Joan to seduce and have sex with Raniere, in part as a means to help Joan recover from childhood and sexual abuse traumas suffered by her in youth.
This instruction to have sex with Raniere was the shock that made Joan break away from the NXIVM organisation. She had been living with the group at its compound in upstate New York, but she fled to her native Hawaii.
Joan was not among the group members who endured the human branding ritual that left them with a symbol that incorporated Raniere's initials in the pelvic area. Nor did she 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 at the sentencing while Joan described the pain that Mack inflicted was daunting but necessary, according to her
Talking about it, Joan said, "Having all eyes on you and feeling all of the energy in the room is something that's hard to explain. There was a lot of adrenaline going through my body. It was exciting and intense but it also felt like a sense of closure and I'm grateful for that."
She has high praise and deep appreciation for the work done by FBI investigators and the Eastern District prosecutors. "That (U.S. Attorney's) office is filled with incredibly unsung heroes who have become like family to me. They are truly beautiful people dedicated to justice," she said.
The work that Joan has put into the case has meant sacrifices. Joan told the judge in her remarks that she used the last of her unemployment checks to help cover the cost of her trip to New York from Los Angeles to speak at Mack's hearing.
In early 2018, Mack and Raniere were arrested. A few months later, Joan received a letter of apology from Mack that she found "disingenuous."
"It didn't feel like there was any real sense 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 empty. There was no feeling -- just complete disconnection," she described.
In Joan's view, Mack should have received a long sentence given the severity of her actions with Raniere. Joan said she was "livid" last week when she read reports of Mack requesting no jail time from the judge because she was engaged in studies at UC Berkeley and has turned her life around, according to the defense's sentencing memo.
Speaking about the hearing, Joan said that "the judge himself expressed that he was grappling with his own inner turmoil. He feels the gravity of the abuse and the pain the victims went through but in the same breath he considers Allison to be a victim of Keith, which is also true."
Joan has spent a lot of time trying to understand how Raniere and some of those around him at NXIVM could recruit intelligent and accomplished people into an organization that was clearly a cult of personality. That introspection has led her to realize how insidious the psychological manipulation was that Raniere had exerted on hundreds of followers.
The process of breaking away from a cult-like experience is exhausting, "The only way for people to be OK with this is to do the inner work and accept the things that happened. And to have forgiveness for yourself," Joan revealed.
As an actor, her credits include the 2013 IFC feature 'Contracted' and web series 'This Indie Thing' and 'Run DMZ'.
According to Variety, now that the Mack prosecution is complete, Joan is turning her focus to ramping up her acting work in addition to being an advocate for victims of mental and physical abuse. (ANI)