NXIVM sex cult survivor shares what made her susceptible to 'brainwashing,' trafficking

India Oxenberg, daughter of 'Dynasty' actress Catherine Oxenberg, detailed the slow 'brainwashing process' that led her into sexual slavery in the NXIVM cult

India Oxenberg, who escaped the infamous NXIVM sex cult alongside her mother and fellow actress Catherine Oxenberg, detailed how she was lured in and lulled into a sense of security in a groundbreaking new interview. 

Oxenberg said in an interview with "The FOX True Crime Podcast" that her upbringing in hip Los Angeles may have dampened her ability to detect something was off about the so-called New York self-help group that ultimately subjected her to physical and mental abuse, including branding, forced sex and starvation. 

"The idea of looking for alternative education was not that unusual to me. I also come from Los Angeles, where we're kind of, like, saturated by what's, like, new and cool and whatnot and slightly less traditional," she said on the podcast. "So I think that my filter for those things might have been a little bit more open."


India Oxenberg wearing a sky printed blouse

India Oxenberg hopes her story will give other trauma survivors hope. (Avalon Lennon)

After Oxenberg fled the group in early 2018, she and her mother assisted the FBI in taking them down. Founder Keith Raniere and his co-conspirators were jailed on charges including sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to commit forced labor soon afterward.

Oxenberg began taking "personal development" classes with the group when she dropped out of college in Boston at just 19 years old, after a former "trusted friend" introduced her to what they called an "amazing," "transformational" program. 

What she and her mother thought would be a "regular self-help talk" ended up dazzling the pair with star-studded attendees.

"We were kind of surrounded by all sorts of professionals, even in the audience," Oxenberg recalled. "There were people that I recognized. Someone who, like, can walk into a grocery store and someone would be like, 'oh, that's a famous person.'"

"I was feeling, like, young and intimidated and kind of just, like, maybe this is where I'm supposed to be," she recalled. "So it was not like when I when I look back, obviously, you know, hindsight is 20/20. I can see red flags now, but at the time I did not."


India Oxenberg and her mother looking directly at the camera and smiling

India Oxenberg, left, escaped NXIVM with the help of her mother, "Dynasty" actress Catherine Oxenberg. (Roxanne McCann)

Initially, Oxenberg said the group's program seemed "logical." 

"They were pitching this self-help program that could help you overcome your core fears and limitations in your belief system," she recalled. 

"I turned to [my mom] and I was, like, ‘I think this is something for me.’ Like, I wanted to try it. And I asked her if she would do it with me, like, as kind of like a bonding thing," Oxenberg said.

Her involvement in the group would become "all-consuming," leaving her exhausted and unable to work another job. Oxenberg lost relationships with friends and family, believing false promises that if she worked hard enough she would reap financial rewards that she said "never happened" in the end.

After five years in the group, she was introduced by trafficking co-conspirator Allison Mack to the "cult within a cult" called "DOS." Women in the group were branded, made to provide nude images and false confessions for blackmail, then forced into sexual servitude.

"I wasn't reaching the success of other people who were reaching success in sales, like, I was spending all of my time and all my money trying to grow… I was in a crummy relationship with a guy who was in the group as well, and he was my superior," Oxenberg explained. 

"I remember Allison Mack approaching me and asking me, like, what do you want in your life? She was somebody who I admire and, and I looked up to," Oxenberg recalled. "When she presented this special group within the group for women to get additional coaching… I was all ears because I thought, well, she's succeeding, so maybe she has something that I might need."


NXIVM building from outside

The NXIVM Executive Success Programs sign outside the office in Albany, New York. Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, was arrested by the FBI in Mexico in March 2018. (Amy Luke)

"Little did I know the nuances of what that was going to be because they were not forthcoming about that whatsoever," she said. 


With every new piece of information Mack gave her about the inner group, Oxenberg said she "had to give her incrimination or damaging information about [herself,]" trusting the higher-ranking member and not realizing at the time that it would be used for blackmail. 

India Oxenberg describes meeting NXIVM leader Keith Raniere for the first timeVideo

She ultimately moved to the group's hub in Albany, New York, where the cult controlled her sleep, eating, social and communication habits. She was branded with a hot iron soon after arriving, she said.

"It was incredibly painful and scary and also something that we could not say no to, and we were kind of encouraged to leave our bodies," Oxenberg recalled. "The learning curve of realizing that that's, like, what pimps do to prostitutes and, like, that's how you, you know, you treat people that are your property or all of that was something that I had to learn after the fact."


"But I could barely be honest about what it was because I was still believing that it was good. That's how twisted it all was," she said.

Rather than blackmail, the threat of leaked personal information was called "collateral," Oxenberg said, and was often used as a method of punishment for disobedience.

When she first met Raniere, Oxenberg said she was told that her first "assignment" was to seduce him.


India Oxenberg wearing a plaid shirt and a hat inside a bar

India Oxenberg has a podcast, "Still Learning," and speaks with trauma experts and survivors. (Avalon Lennon)

"I was like, how does this relate to, like, me growing? I didn't get it. But you weren't allowed to question because when you questioned, you got reprimanded so quickly," Oxenberg recalled. 

Further "assignments" included being nude in front of Raniere and asking him to take nude photos of her under the guise of being "completely vulnerable."

After she had been in DOS for two years, she said, Raniere began showing up in the middle of the night, calling her to his apartment and making her wait naked for his arrival. 


"All these very dehumanizing things that I thought were for my benefit because I was being told that," Oxenberg said, "but really, it was just, like, repeated molestation and rape."

When she finally escaped the group after seven years, Oxenberg said she had to "undo everything [she] learned and release what [she] truly believed."

"I've had to really, like, come to terms with, like, what's loving for me, what works for me in my life," she said. "And that isn't based on somebody else's standards, it's entirely based on mine. And a lot of it has to do with self-respect and also self-knowledge, which is something that I think you can either gain from a traumatic experience or hide from. Like, I'm motivated to speak about these things, but yeah, it still hurts."

Her nine months helping the FBI build cases against Raniere and his co-conspirators, Oxenberg said, was a crucial part of her healing process. Ultimately, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison. 

"I'm proud, actually… I feel lucky that he got the sentencing that he deserved. And I know that there's many women and people in general who are victimized who never, ever get that kind of justice," she said. "And so there's a part of me that's like… I'm lucky that my predator is behind bars because I know many people walk around very scared because theirs are not. And I hope that it sets a precedent for the future and kind of, like, shows people, like, don't f--- with us. Like, don't. Because there will be consequences for you."

Oxenberg has since recreated a life for herself in Key West, Florida, with her husband and cats.

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