India Oxenberg tells her NXIVM story: Inside the new doc about her
Most people don’t like being associated with gossip – especially if the rumors revolve around an alleged sex cult. For the last three years, former NXIVM member India Oxenberg was a supporting character in stories told by directors Karim Amer & Jehan Noujaim as well as by her own mother, Catherine Oxenberg.
India finally reclaimed her voice in Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, a new four-part docuseries that premiered October 18th on Starz. During an interview with Variety, India said, “I felt like it was my chance to take the story back into my own hands and say, ‘Hey, there’s a person here! Not just branded, sex slave, cult girl — a human being.’”
Healed and ready
NXIVM, the proclaimed “self-improvement” company, has been in the spotlight due to sex cult allegations. While many who’ve been following the case are aware of the criminal charges against its leadership, India Oxenberg’s story was the missing piece for a while – she needed time to heal from her traumatic experience, after all.
“I had a lot of people asking me to do media and I felt totally overwhelmed and bombarded. I just needed to have solace — I needed to really just hunker down and figure out what had happened, and take care of myself for the first time in a long time,” India Oxenberg says. She has been going to therapy, reconnecting with family & friends, and “cleaning up the mess” she got herself in.
A closer look at the situation
The chaos India Oxenberg experienced began in 2011, when she and her mother, Catherine Oxenberg attended an introductory executive success program from NXIVM. India was nineteen-years-old at the time and was looking for ways to enhance her skills for her future. On the recommendation of a friend Catherine trusted, they unknowingly went on what would end up becoming a life-changing event.
Catherine Oxenberg didn’t think NXIVM was right for her daughter. However, India Oxenberg felt the opposite and became a coach for the organization. She moved to Albany, New York, stopped communicating with her family, and became a part of the NXIVM subgroup “DOS”– a group that came with sexual abuse & physical branding.
Not your average self-help group
DOS adopted the “master-slave” relationship between its members; India Oxenberg primarily acted as NXIVM member Allison Mack’s slave. At first, Oxenberg had to provide “collateral” to Mack in the form of embarrassing or personal information that would be made public if she ever revealed the secrets of the group.
Once in, India Oxenberg had to perform “assignments” for Mack and ask permission to perform other daily functions, such as eating. Eventually, Oxenberg was coerced into sex acts with NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. Members were required to send him intimate photos, become branded with a symbol that incorporated Raniere’s initials, and recruit slaves of their own.
After several years of being in NXIVM, India Oxenberg managed to break away thanks to her mother’s media tour that shined a light on the organization’s corruption. Two years later, Oxenberg is ready to explain what happened in her own words, through Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, as well as in a forthcoming book.
Head hung low
Although she isn’t facing any criminal charges, India Oxenberg admitted feeling guilt & shame about the part she played in bringing other young women into the group: “I betrayed people that I cared about, and I feel horrible and still struggle with that today. I have reconciled a majority of it with people, but not everybody. That’s a process of healing, and I want to be a person who fixes that.”
“Sometimes I think they just want to be heard and they want me to acknowledge what I did, and they also understand that I was in a horribly compromised position; I was being told to do these things by Keith and Allison,” she added.
What to expect from the docuseries
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult director Cecilia Peck incorporates interviews & archival footage of other former members, as well as interviews from other key players in bringing down NXIVM. Other people included in the docuseries include cult experts such as Dr. Janja Lalich & Rick Alan Ross as well as the matriarch of the Oxenberg family, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia.
Since the center of the story is the Oxenbergs, the docuseries’s structure follows India Oxenberg’s experience. It starts out by slowly introducing the audience to NXIVM, Raniere, and Mack, and then walks the audience through the processes used to gain trust & compliance from members.
“What I wanted to make sure was conveyed was that this isn’t something that happens overnight: This is a long process of indoctrination and grooming that happened for years,” India Oxenberg says. “So I didn’t want the documentary to jump right into something and have the viewers be like, ‘What the f— is wrong with this chick? Why would she do that?’ I wanted this to show that this was systematic.”
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult can be watched on Starz. Let us know in the comments what you think about the docuseries so far!