The details about how Allison Mack groomed India Oxenberg for NXIVM
After NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere’s arrest in 2018, Americans have been fascinated by NXIVM’s story. Raniere other high-ranking NXIVM members, including Smallville’s Allison Mack, are awaiting sentencing or in jail for crimes like sex trafficking & racketeering. The HBO docuseries The Vow chronicles the cult’s rise & fall, including the indoctrination and rescue attempt of India Oxenberg.
India Oxenberg herself didn’t appear in the HBO series’ first season, but her experience is covered in Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, which premiered on Starz on October 18th.
NXIVM was founded by Raniere in 1998 as a personal development company specializing in self improvement. Offering classes & seminars, NXIVM intertwined philosophy and psychology to change behavior and help people “experience more joy in their lives”.
The group purposefully targeted celebrities, actors, and musicians. Allison Mack joined the cult after being targeted at a 2006 Hollywood party. Mack rose through the ranks in the NXIVM organization and eventually indoctrinated India Oxenberg into a secret society within the cult. But how did she do it? Turns out, Raniere & Mack’s tactics are your garden variety cult brainwashing.
Before joining NXIVM’s secret society, India Oxenberg was already close to the cult’s leader. In Elle, she explained she opened up to Raniere early on in her time with the cult, saying she saw him as a mentor. Once she told him about her childhood, fears, and dreams, it was easier for him to break her. “He made me feel special only to slowly break me down and systematically control me.”
Raniere & Mack used her personal information to encourage and perpetuate India Oxenberg’s negative self image. “If you’re ever in a situation where someone tries to change your opinions of yourself in a negative way, or make you believe that you’re not lovable or you’re not worthy, get out,” she writes.
Once India Oxenberg felt special, it was easier for Mack to indoctrinate her into DOS, NXIVM’s secret society that comes from the Latin phrase meaning “Master over Slave Women.” Mack invited her to DOS in 2015 after Oxenberg was involved for four years. Mack presented DOS to Oxenberg as a “top-secret-internal society providing women with one-on-one coaching.”
Before joining the secret group, India Oxenberg had to give Mack & DOS leaders nude photos and family secrets as “collateral”. Any time Oxenberg or other members questioned Mack, their photos and secrets were used against them to force them to have sex with Raniere.
Despite being uncomfortable giving that information to DOS, Oxenberg did it anyway due to the trust she built with Mack and Raniere. Today, Oxenberg doesn’t know where some of her “collateral” is. “The FBI has some of mine, but I believe a lot is still out there, somewhere.”
While the branding was used to mark members of this secret sect, it was not used as a punishment. A part of DOS’s initiation, new members would be stripped of their clothes, lead to a table and held down to prevent convulsions. Oxenburg told People that she doesn’t remember the pain. “I remember the smell – of flesh.”
The women were branded with Raniere’s initials, but were told that the design was “a symbol of the elements.” By this point, Oxenberg says she had lost her ability to think for herself.”The circumstances pushed us to our limits, to the point where you would think you were making the choice to get branded,” she told People.
If Oxenberg disobeyed Mack’s orders, a punishment was demanded. Cold showers and extreme exercises such as planking were used to discipline her. Restrictive diets, a known manipulation tactic in cults, made it easier to get Oxwnberg to cooperate. With a low caloric intake, Oxenberg would do anything to return to be able to eat.
Mack also used verbal abuse to punish and retain control over DOS members. “She berated them and told them they were worth nothing, that they were weak and couldn’t uphold their word,” a source told the Hollywood Reporter in 2018. Reports and court documents state Mack threatened to destroy disobedient members and those who wanted to date other people.
India Oxenberg left the cult during the summer of 2018 and moved in with her mother, former Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg. Working with the FBI, Oxenberg helped bring both Mack & Raniere to justice. She is engaged, has been in a deprogramming program for two years, and has gotten a tattoo to cover her branding scar.
Mack plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering charges and is currently awaiting sentencing. In June 2019, Raniere was found guilty of various counts sex trafficking, idenity theft, sexual exploitation of a child, and child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced this month.