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India Oxenberg Is Finally Free from NXIVM: 'You Get Used to This Environment of Abuse That You Believe It's Good for You'

Illustration for article titled India Oxenberg Is Finally Free from NXIVM: You Get Used to This Environment of Abuse That You Believe Its Good for You
Image: Charley Gallay (Getty Images)

India Oxenberg, daughter of actor Catherine Oxenberg, has remained silent about her time with NXIVM since escaping the New York-headquartered “sex cult,” run by convicted sex trafficker Keith Raniere, in 2018. That is, until now. While on a press tour to promote her forthcoming Starz docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult—not to be mistaken with the currently-airing HBO documentary The Vow, on the same topic—she’s been opening up about her experience, confirming the harrowing details of her time in the organization and revealing how her life has changed since leaving it.

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Beginning with an interview at Good Morning America, India said she spent nearly seven years in NXIVM and many years in DOS, short for “dominus obsequious sororium,” Latin for “master over the slave women.” To select women of NXIVM, DOS was presented as a secret group meant to bolster “female empowerment.” In reality, members of the wing were blackmailed with “collateral,” usually in the form of pornographic pictures or financial information, to ensure their silence while they were used as “sex slaves.”

“That’s years of grooming,” India said. “And when you’re unaware, it’s so easy to be led astray, especially by people who are masters at manipulation. And these people were that, especially Keith Raniere. He’s a master at manipulation. If there’s one thing he’s intelligent at, it’s that. And he’s a predator,” she said, adding that DOS “was a trap and it was a ploy for Keith to enslave women for his own sexual desires... I was commanded to do a seduction assignment. That was the beginning of continual sexual abuse. And I didn’t see it as that at the time. I would describe that sexual relationship as rape [now.]”

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India also spoke to Vanity Fair, describing her time in NXIVM as “like freaking Shakespeare. It’s so tragic.” After undergoing two years of therapy and deprogramming, India said she can finally see her experience clearly, adding that she hopes Seduced helps people see her as more than just “a cult girl” or a “sex slave.” “If you really knew me and if you just sat down and talked to me, you would realize that I’m not just that one-dimensional tagline. There’s a human in there.” She also said she got a tattoo around the cult’s infamous branding practice, the “KR” (Keith Raniere) and “AM” (actor Allison Mack, allegedly Raniere’s righthand in DOS) on her pelvis. “It’s this mandala-type shape and an evil eye pointing outward. Around, it says en quora en para, which means ‘still learning.’ For me, it’s about reclaiming that part of my body so I didn’t have to look at myself naked and see Keith’s initials. I see something that I want, that I’ve placed on myself.”

She also described her life post-NXIVM. “I thought I was totally asexual when really I was just being abused and didn’t feel any feelings of sexuality or interest towards men or women. I had to rebuild that,” she explained. “I still find myself being resistant to certain things—even with my fiancé, who I feel totally safe with. I don’t want him to look at me in certain places or things like that. I’m like, ‘Why do I still have this hang up?’ But that’s because of what I experienced. I know that consciously, but it’s not fun to have those residual issues.”

On Wednesday, People published their own interview with India, where she described how she was recruited into DOS. “Allison [Mack] said she had a special program she thought could help me. I felt singled out. I felt special... [She said she needed] something to make sure I wouldn’t share what she was about to disclose. That’s how I ended up providing her with collateral. In reality, it was like I handed over the keys to lock myself in prison,” she said. “[Allison] said I could have no more than 500 calories a day. One of my first commands was to seduce Keith. Allison said it was to make me feel less vulnerable. And I wanted to believe her. You get so used to this environment of abuse that you believe you’re deserving of it, that it’s good for you. I didn’t want to see it as sexual abuse. I feel shame and embarrassment about what happened but I also have forgiveness for myself. Women who experience this kind of abuse do strange things in their mind to be okay with it.”

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India says she plans to attend Raniere’s sentencing on October 27, and is expected to deliver a victim impact statement as part of her closure. “I want to have that last moment of me saying my piece to him there in the room. I’m scared to do it, but I feel like I need it,” she told Vanity Fair, hoping he receives life in prison. “I don’t think that he is able to repair himself. I think he is somebody who is a danger in society. And if he is let out, I believe that he’ll do exactly the same thing that he’s always done.”

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult premieres on STARZ on October 18.

Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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DISCUSSION

suffersfoolsgladly
Suffersfoolsgladly

Oh I’m so relieved to hear this.

I was part of a Buddhist group years ago that became a cult. The llama looked a lot like Reniere too. I knew what was up from the start, but I watched others be absolutely destroyed by this man in the name of “enlightenment”.

I was lucky to have some perspective. I never agreed to do any residential retreats, etc. People who lived at the Center and were brainwashed 24/7 fared far worse. I knew the second week that the lama was probably a grifter narcissist , and stayed just long enough to learn the things I came to learn. By then things were totally cult-y and I ratted him out to his teacher in Asia, along with a few other students.

I hope India is able to forgive herself and leave the shame behind. It’s so easy to beat yourself up after being manipulated in this way, especially if the person caused you to go against your own moral compass. Our minds are far more fragile than we realize and this could happen to most of us given the right circumstances.

I’m very glad India is safe now.