Former NXIVM member India Oxenberg broke her silence on her time in the cult on Tuesday to morning to describe being ‘raped’ by its leader, Keith Raniere, and branded with his initials which she thought were a symbol of the elements.
India, 29, says she spent seven years entrenched in the cult after being lured into it under the guise that it offered her self-help and self-growth in 2011.
Instead, she said she was sexually abused by Raniere and cut off from her family, including her Dynasty actress mother, Catherine, who spent years campaigning to expose NXIVM and put Raniere behind bars.
He is in jail awaiting sentencing for a range of crimes including sex trafficking of children and child pornography charges.
In her first interview since breaking free from the cult – which is still operating – India told Good Morning America on Tuesday how she was ‘groomed’ by him for years.
‘What I thought I was learning was self-help and personal growth. What I was learning was the opposite. It was inhumane.’
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India Oxenberg appearing on Good Morning America on Tuesday in her first interview about NXIVM
India and her mother, Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, speaking on Tuesday morning
She and Catherine were separated when they first approached the organization under the impression that it was a self-help group.
‘That was all strategic.We were unaware of why they were doing that at the time. its something I learned later on called parental alienation,’ India said.
India joined the cult in 2011 when she was 22
She then spent seven years being ‘groomed’ by Raniere and other leaders, including, she claims, Allison Mack.
‘That’s years of grooming. When you’re unaware it’s so easy to be led astray especially by people who are masters at manipulation.
‘That’s what these people are. Especially Keith Raniere . If there’s one thing he’s intelligent at, it’s that. He’s a predator.’
Within NXIVM, there was a subgroup that Raniere liked to call a secret society. India says she was recruited for it by Mack, who presented it as a sexual liberation group.
‘It was a trap and a ploy for Keith to enslave women for his own sexual desires. The relationship took a different turn and became sexual when I was commanded to do a seduction assignment.
‘That was the beginning of the sexual abuse and I didn’t see it as that at the time,’ India said on Tuesday.
When she joined the organizations, she said she was asked to give ‘collateral’ in the form of incriminating information or materials about her family or friends. With that in mind, she said she always had to submit to Raniere.
Keith Raniere is in jail awaiting sentencing on a range of charges including child sex trafficking and child porn. The branding of his initials that members received is shown, right
‘I would describe that sexual relationship as rape. I had given collateral which automatically removes my choice. I did not have the option to say no. Saying no meant hurting my family or hurting my friends and I wasn’t going to do that.’
She and others in the subgroup were branded with his initials in a suburban house in what was presented to her as a bonding ceremony.
Describing it, she said: ‘It was horrible. At the time I thought I was doing this empowering bonding moment with a group of friends that I can considered my nearest and dearest.’
She says she and the other women were told the symbol that was burned onto their skin was a symbol to represent the elements when in fact, it was Raniere’s initials.
‘We were told it was a symbol of the elements and that this was going to be a bonding experience.
‘We were sleep deprived, we were starved, we were coerced. You don’t just decide to be branded. You are coerced into being branded,’ she said.
She has since covered the marking on her skin with an evil eye and a Latin phrase that translates to ‘still learning’.
Actress Allison Mack is also in prison. Oxenberg says she recruited her to the sub-sect of the cult in which she was sexually abused
Catherine tried repeatedly to break her daughter out of the cult but couldn’t get through to her.
‘I was too deeply in. I was scared. I was confused. It was stages of revelations and I started working with a de-programmer who helped me tremendously but I had to be open to it. You can’t force someone to see the truth. I didn’t want to for a long time,’ India said.
Now, the pair appear in a Starz documentary about the cult – Seduce- that will air on October 18. HBO has also released a docu-series about it title The Vow.
Catherine on Tuesday described how trying to coax someone out of a cult is ‘very different’ to other types of intervention.
‘Getting someone out of a cult is very different to a drug intervention, for instance, because they their whole thinking has been taken away. The process of working with a cult defector is to awaken and reignite their critical thinking . To help them start to think for themselves. It’s very gentle. It’s very different,’ she said.
India said she now feels like she has reclaimed her life and body.
‘You don’t have to live with Keith Raniere haunting you, you can learn from it and move on. You can heal and have love. I just feel so lucky that I can have that,’ she said.
Raniere maintains that he did nothing wrong and that all of his sexual relationships with the women in the cult and throughout his life have been consensual.
He is still awaiting sentencing.