Why is India Oxenberg revealing her NXIVM experiences now?
The modern day cult, NXIVM, now has two docuseries exploring the ins and outs of the group led by Keith Raniere. The Vow is an HBO series which has gone in-depth looking at the history of the cult and what happened behind closed doors.
Now, Starz is tacking a crack at understanding the sex cult with the help of former member India Oxenberg and her mother Catherine Oxenberg. Why speak up now? Well, it’s a lot safer for her to do so now that she’s worked to understand the toxic ways of the supposed “self-help” group she was in, and that Raniere (as well as Raniere’s highest ranking members) are in prison.
The Starz series is titled Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult. It focuses specifically on India Oxenberg’s story and experiences, as opposed to the cult as a whole – however India’s experiences paint a pretty clear picture of how the cult functioned.
Getting drawn in
NXIVM claimed it was a self-help group (that charged thousands of dollars), but it was really more of a hunting ground for Raniere. He would pick women (and only women) to join a smaller sect called DOS. Catherine Oxenberg invited her daughter to attend a NXIVM program with her. At this point both mother and daughter believed the group really was an executive success program.
Catherine was originally the target of NXIVM (likely due to her Dynasty fame and her relation to royal families), but she was told she was too defiant – a dangerous trait in any cult. Instead NXIVM focused their efforts on recruiting her daughter India, who was only nineteen at the time.
In Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult Catherine admits there were warning signs, such as being intentionally separated from her daughter at the program – she never attended another seminar, but India would go on to take course after course, pouring thousands of dollars into the group.
Eventually she was invited to join the DOS sect by actress Allison Mack – and India accepted. In the documentary Catherine explains how she could see herself losing her daughter to the cult – India had even moved from the LA area to New York to act as a live-in servant for Mack.
Life in DOS
India was promised a life filled with happiness by NXIVM, but the life she ended up with was filled with punishment, sex slavery, and starvation. At one point India was forced to “diet” – eating only 500 calories a day. She was so malnourished she had begun to lose hair and her period wasn’t coming.
The sex slaves were forced to provide “collatoral” for DOS, whether it be nude photos or a dark secret. They were also ordered about by Mack and Raniere, often by text message.
If someone failed to follow orders in time, or do what they were told properly they would face punishments which ranged from standing in the snow at three in the morning to being locked in a cage. Mack was known for wearing a cilice when being punished – a medieval garter which would pierce the skin.
India Oxenberg was one of four women who reported directly to Allison Mack. One day, Mack insisted that all three women would be branded with a cauterizing pen on their pelvis. India was the first to undergo the procedure, which lasted thirty minutes. She wasn’t given anything to numb the pain, and instead was held by her hands and feet by other members to ensure she didn’t move too much.
India recalls little other than the horrible smell, the fact she didn’t scream, and Mack repeating the phrase “feel the pain, feel the love”. The brands were the initials of Keith
Later India was forced to recruit three of her own slaves, but was spared having to force brands on them since they all quit.
Catherine learned of the life her daughter was living in 2017 from someone who had escaped the cult. Seeing that her daughter refused to quit, Catherine became determined to expose the cult herself.
When Raniere, Mack, and other leaders were arrested in 2018 for their crimes as part of NXIVM, India finally began to see the abuse she had endured for what it was. India was cooperative with authorities which prevented her from seeing her own criminal charges for aiding the cult in recruitment.
To those who would criticize India for being gullible she says they have no idea what it’s like to be slowly worn down into submission. She also points out that if they had opened with branding during the first seminar she never would have allowed it.
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult is a four part docuseries created by Starz. The first episode is already available to watch.