India Oxenberg Says NXIVM's Keith Raniere Starved Her to Look Like a 12-Year-Old

Samantha Vincenty
·6 mins read
Photo credit: Starz
Photo credit: Starz

From Oprah Magazine

  • India Oxenberg is a former member of Keith Raniere's NXIVM group, and its DOS sect.

  • HBO's The Vow followed India's mother Catherine Oxenberg's attempt to extract her daughter.

  • India tells her story in Starz's four-part docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.

  • NXIVM leader Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison on October 27.

India Oxenberg was a high-profile former member of NXIVM, the cult masked as a multi-level-marketing scheme co-founded by Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman. But throughout much of The Vow, HBO's documentary series on the group and its downfall, we learned of India's experience through her mother, Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg. Now, India's telling her own story in Starz's four-part docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.

India also appeared in Brooklyn, NY, federal court on October 27, to be one of over a dozen people who shared victim impact statements for hours during Keith Raniere's sentencing trial. Per the New York Post account of her testimony, India recounted the “the horror of hearing his voice in the darkness" as he'd order her to strip in what she characterizes as non-consensual encounters coerced through blackmail. "You raped me," she said to Raniere in the courtroom. India also claimed that Raniere, who was also convicted of sexually abusing an underage girl from the time she was 15 years old and he was 45, starved her to look like a 12-year-old.

Raniere wasn't the only member India had an extremely dark experience with. Speaking with ABC News's Amy Robach on Good Morning America in an October 14 interview, India Oxenberg, 29, confirmed that it was Smallville actress AllisonMack who recruited India into DOS, the sex cult that forced its members to submit blackmail material as collateral, get a painful brand seared on their pelvis, and essentially let their "master" run their lives. According to India, Mack sold her on DOS under the guise of “empowerment.”

“It was an abusive dynamic,” India told GMA of Mack's actions, “just by the sheer fact that she had control over me.”

According to India, DOS employed the classic cult tactics of sleep deprivation and hunger to bend members to their will. As India's "master," Mack allegedly enforced a 500 calorie-maximum daily diet, requiring her to ask permission with a “Master, may I…” text before eating anything.

“She did it strategically," India explained. "She knew that I was in a vulnerable place in my life, and I was desperate for something. She targeted me for that.”

Per DOS's multi-level-marketing model, India eventually became a master herself and was ordered to recruit her own slave pod, which she says she didn’t want to. “I was not a good master. I didn’t want to control this person, tell them what to do, scare them.”

India initially resisted her mother’s texts urging her to turn herself in to federal investigators; she didn’t leave the group until 2018, following Mack and Raniere’s arrests. She was still living in Mack’s apartment in Brooklyn at the time. There, India found a flash drive full of potential evidence against Raniere—which she later turned over to authorities.

Those flash drives included audio recordings of Raniere devising the practices DOS would come to be exposed for, including the branding, and how the "masters" should make it seem like the women actually wanted to be branded (when they were actually pressured into doing so under false pretense).

Photo credit: Starz
Photo credit: Starz

“I cooperated with prosecutors for 9 months,” she says. “But up until then, these people were my friends. These were people that I trusted, and admired.” Neither Raniere nor Mack and their legal teams provided comment to GMA.

Multiple former DOS slaves have accused Mack and other leaders of grooming them for sex with Raniere. “It was a trap. And it was a ploy for Keith to enslave women for his own sexual desires,” India told GMA. “The relationship [with Raniere] turned sexual when 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.”

Looking back, India says, “I would describe that sexual relationship as rape.” Because of the collateral she’d been coerced into turning over, “I didn’t have the option to say no.”

Like other members, India says she was told the brand was a symbol of earth’s elements, when it actually involved Raniere’s initials. “We were sleep deprived. We were starved. We were coerced. You don’t just decide to be branded.” The Oxenbergs have since worked with a deprogrammer who has “helped tremendously,” though she maintains no one can leave until they are ready themselves.

Since leaving NXIVM and repairing her relationship with her mother, India has gotten a tattoo over the brand scar. "It’s this mandala-type shape and an evil eye pointing outward. Around, it says en quora en para, which means ‘still learning'," she told Vanity Fair. "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.”

In addition to starring in and executive-producing on the Seduced documentary, 2020 has found India writing a book—titled Still Learning, echoing her tattoo's sentiment—that is forthcoming on Audible. She also told Vanity Fair that she's taken up boxing, to feel strong and trust in her body again.

India told Vanity Fair that she is now engaged, after taking some time to deal with the trauma of her DOS abuse. Hesitant to begin dating, India met her fiancé Patrick in New York when they worked at different restaurants (he was a sous chef, and she was a manager). While she says she still copes with "residual issues," Patrick was able to crack her protective exterior.

"He was aware of the story and aware of me, but he never really brought it up,” India told the magazine. “Anytime he asked me questions, it was without judgment. He wanted to know from me, the source…and I so appreciated that and needed that. Because before, I just felt like everyone was interacting with me like ‘cult girl,’ and not like India.”

As of October 2020, Mack is still awaiting sentencing for the crimes she committed as a NXIVM leader. Arrested in April 2018, the former Smallville star initially pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges related to her role in DOS. A year later, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, admitting to state law extortion and forced labor. After her arrest she was released to the custody of her parents in California, where she evidently remains today.

Watch the trailer for Starz's four-part Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult below.

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