From high-flyer to sex slave: Cults that prey on successful women - 2018-06-16
Hollywood actress Allison Mack is set to stand trial for her role in a sinister cult that brands its members and turns them into 'sex slaves'. Although its attempts to recruit Emma Watson and Kelly Clarkson failed, many smart, successful women have fallen under the spell of NXIVM and its founder Keith Raniere. And bizarrely, this is not a new phenomenon. Cults have been operating in this way for decades – and they don't necessarily prey on the vulnerable. As Jane Mulkerrins discovers, any one of us could be drawn into their malevolent web.
Helen Zuman was 22 years old and an idealistic Harvard University graduate when she joined Zendik Farm, a community in North Carolina that focused on the arts and the environment. Most of the 55 members at the time were in their 20s and 30s, too, and seemed, she says, 'so healthy and vibrant, and knew what they wanted in life'.
An aspiring writer, Helen was keen to develop her craft at the farm. 'But when I got there, I was expected to do physical work all the time. Art was reserved for people who were higher up the food chain, and it was incredibly hierarchical,' she says.