India Oxenberg broke her silence on Tuesday about her life and eventual escape from NXIVM, the purported self-help organization whose co-founder and leader was found guilty of sex trafficking and child porn offenses.
Oxenberg and her mother, “Dynasty” star Catherine Oxenberg, sat down with “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to discuss their seven-year struggle to break free from the “inhumane” sex cult.
“What I thought I was learning was self-help and personal growth,” Oxenberg said. “What I was learning was the opposite.”
NXIVM operated purported self-help programs based in Albany, New York, which attracted millionaires and Hollywood stars — including Oxenberg, who said she attended her first meeting with her mother when she was 19.
Upon joining, Oxenberg said, the group immediately tried to separate her from her mother.
“That was all strategic and we were unaware of why they were doing that at the time,” Oxenberg said. “It’s actually something I learned later on called parental alienation.”
Prosecutors described the organization as a criminal enterprise that ran a secret society called DOS, in which women were kept as “slaves” to service top officials and its leader, Keith Raniere.
Raniere, 60, was found guilty last year of racketeering, sex trafficking and possession of child pornography and faces up to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27.
Women were forced to turn over compromising material that were used to blackmail and force them into sex, prosecutors said.
Members like Oxenberg paid thousands of dollars to NXIVM-sponsored classes promising professional development, which prosecutors say forced many into debt. Oxenberg said she paid the organization close to $100,000 over the course of nearly seven years of “grooming,” saying she was slowly brainwashed.
“When you’re unaware, it’s so easy to be led astray, especially by people who are masters at manipulation,” she said. Raniere was a “master of manipulation” and a “predator,” she added.
NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, and Seagram liquor heiress Claire Bronfman have all pleaded guilty to charges related to the group.
Oxenberg said Mack, 38, who pleaded guilty last year to racketeering charges, was the person who recruited her.
“It was a trap,” she said. “It was a ploy for Keith to enslave women for his own sexual desires … I would describe that sexual relationship as rape.”
Catherine Oxenberg said she fought for years, both publicly and privately, to help free her daughter. But the pull of NXIVM was too strong.
“I was too deeply in, I was scared, and I was confused,” Oxenberg said. She only started breaking away after Raniere and Mack were arrested in 2018 and says that coming to terms with her time in NXIVM was a gradual process.
She said she hopes that sharing her story will help others realize that “you don’t have to be in a cult, to be coerced” — and that there is a path forward.
At Raniere’s hearing later this month, Oxenberg said she will deliver a victim impact statement for her own closure.
“You don’t have to live with Keith Raniere haunting you. You can reclaim your life,” she said. “You can learn from it, and you can move on, and you can heal, and you can have love.”
“I just feel so lucky that I can have that,” she said.