India Oxenberg on being branded for NXIVM: ‘there was no choice to say no’

NXIVM was first known as a self-help and transformational group with a genius leader and backed by the Bronfman sisters, heiresses to the Seagram liquor dynasty. However in the last 3-4 years it has come out that NXIVM was a sex cult. They used the millions of dollars donated by the Bronfman sisters to bankrupt any members who tried to leave the cult. Litigation was a form of punishment for basically disobeying and betraying the leader.

One of the most horrifying programs within NXIVM was their master-slave sorority called DOS. DOS was led by Smallville actress Alison Mack which groomed the women recruited by NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. The women were branded with Raniere and Mack’s initial to solidify their obedience. One of those women caught up in DOS was India Oxenberg, daughter of Dynasty star Cathering Oxenberg. India is featured in People magazine this week. She recounts the night she was branded and how she was manipulated and mind controlled. Below are a few excerpts:

India Oxenberg remembers that harrowing night in January 2016. By then, she was deep in the throes of the Nxivm cult. She was instructed to remove her clothes. Along with several other women, she was told to walk into a room that had a table.

“I had two women holding my hands and my feet so I wouldn’t convulse,” India tells PEOPLE.

There, she was held down and branded with the initials of Keith Raniere, the leader of the now-notorious Nxivm, which New York prosecutors described as a “sex cult.” “I remember the smell — of flesh,” says India. “I remember crying but not with pain. There was no choice to say no.”

It was all part of an initiation ceremony into Nxivm’s secret master-slave sorority, known as DOS. She had been recruited to join the group by another Nxivm member, former Smallville actress Allison Mack, who would eventually become India’s “master.” India’s harrowing ordeal is featured in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, and is also featured on tonight’s episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show!), airing at 7 p.m.

At the time, India and the other women were told the brand was a “symbol of the elements.” By that point, after five years of indoctrination into Nxivm, which billed itself as a self-help organization, India had lost her ability to think independently. “The circumstances pushed us to our limits, to the point where you would think you were making the choice to get branded,” she says.

For the first time, she shares the chilling details of how she was lured, brainwashed, blackmailed and initiated into DOS, where she was groomed to have sex with Raniere. “One of my first commands was to seduce Keith,” she says. “I was told it was an assignment to make me feel less vulnerable.”

[From People]

I hadn’t heard about NXIVM until one of Celebitchy’s followers mentioned it. I follow their niece Hannah on Youtube and find her fascinating. I started watching HBO’s documentary The Vow about NXIVM and I was hooked. What people don’t understand is how easy it is to fall into these cults, no matter how strong-willed you are. India joined NXIVM when she was 18. She was still very impressionable.

The other thing that irritates me is why do rich white people fantasize about slavery? This dude Raniere branded women as his on personal property. He put his name on their flesh in the most horrific way. Like, my ancestors actually went through that sh*t. It is not fun nor funny. It is absolutely degrading and downright evil.

I do hope India has gotten the help she needs to heal. She did mention in the article that she did two years of therapy and deprogramming. But I am sure she will have many years of freeing herself. Hopefully, she won’t feel shame for fighting her mother’s help or for things she was mentally manipulated to participate in. I hope she has also learned how to trust her inner voice and leave when something doesn’t feel right to her.

If you haven’t watched The Vow, I recommend it. You’d be amazed at how Raniere was able to use women to elevate himself. He tortured women to compensate for his feelings of inadequacy. He wanted to be seen as a god while feigning modesty and humility. When you pull back the layers, Raniere was nothing more than a con artist and your run of the mill sexual predator. There is, in fact, nothing spectacular about him.


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21 Responses to “India Oxenberg on being branded for NXIVM: ‘there was no choice to say no’”

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  1. Bryn says:

    So glad she got out of it, her mom must be her hero. Cheers and well wishes to a happy, peaceful life

  2. Ariel says:

    I’ve been watching the hbo doc (The Vow). It ends this Sunday, the same day the starz doc begins. It’s fascinating,

    Similar to scientology, except the sex cult aspect (yikes!) Scientology just wants money and unquestioning loyalty.

    It’s infuriating to watch.
    All the people who go into these things seem decent, kind. They want to make the world a better place, and they are searchers.
    Searching for some meaning, some answers to life’s mysteries.
    They don’t know that has to come from inside themselves.

    And, in both cults, those first few levels/ lessons work like a charm.
    They are generally about communication and confidence- and probably available as advice in self help books at a much lower cost.

    Weird upside- poor people don’t get caught up in these. You have to have enough money to pay the admission.

    But how did no one notice raniere was screwing every member of the all female board?

    • Sunnydaze says:

      One of the things that stood out to me watching the videos was the techniques they used we’re actually pieces of legitimate evidence based therapies like Dialectical Behavior therapy, Acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. As a therapist this drive me nuts because I just wanted to tell GET A GOOD THERAPIST! problem is these great tools were given piecemeal and perverted and then just completely twisted. Even hearing people say “he had some great ideas and it helped me at first” I’m still like, no, nancy Salzmans would have known how to use these therapies in conjunction with neurolinguistic programming , none of this is original thinking. It’s infuriating legitimate therapy was weaponized and poisoned people and even now I’m still hearing people attribute anything positive when in fact it was all stolen.

  3. SamC says:

    I’m amazed at the hold he still has on so many of his followers, even from jail. The Bronfman sister that was just sentenced is as dedicated as ever, still financially supporting him, litigating against victims who testified, etc. And that all this was happening in a small town outside of Albany, NY is crazy to me since I traveled to that town a lot for work at one time.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      There is just something very wrong with the Bronfman family – remember the family also aided & abetted Ira Einhorn after he murdered Holly Maddux

  4. Naomi says:

    I’m watching the Vow and was blown away by the latest episode, which revealed that Raniere is basically an incel. It’s all about how men have mommy issues and that women are treated like princesses in society and control men, so men need to dominate women so that women understand how hard it is to be a man. Just batsh*t but you can see how it’s part of this broader vile incel/MRM (Men’s rights movement) development in the past 10 or 20 years or so.

    And great point about, Oya, about why these white women are fantasizing about slavery!

  5. Becks1 says:

    This is just horrific. I’m glad she was able to get out and get therapy etc, but thinking of what she and the other girls went through……just horrific. I haven’t heard of the Vow, I’ll have to check it out.

  6. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    This has been such an intriguing story from the moment it first broke. I plan on checking out The Vow and this People tv episode.

  7. notasugarhere says:

    Random Catherine Oxenburg stats for those who don’t know. Daughter of ‘Princess’ Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. First (removed) cousin of the Duke of Kent, second cousin to Prince Charles. Star of one of the earliest Charles and Diana movies. She hid the identity of her daughter India’s father for years – drug smuggler William Weitz Shaffer. How much could her odd family history have played into her vulnerability to a cult like this?

  8. madje says:

    I have a hard time with this one. Obviously the cult is horrific. But so many of these people were already pretty well-off (for your average US/Canadian/Aus person-feel free to augment but that’s where I know some of them are from) and had careers riding on their egos. I guess I’ve seen and read a lot of cult stuff and this one seems like you almost have to have narcissistic tendencies to even think it sounds like a good idea in the first place. I don’t think children are born or trafficked into it, and the allure seems to be getting on a higher plane for struggling mid-level entertainers. Idk, the whole thing is whack, and I just don’t feel as bad for the victims as I do for like people who had no housing or income or healthcare or had been otherwise kinda cast out with nowhere to go, which is the case with many, many cult victims.

    • TeamMeg says:

      Madje, if you watch The Vow you will understand how rich and high powered people were specifically courted to join… and then manipulated. Even rich people want to improve themselves. Before he started NXIVM, leader Keith Raniere had another MLM called Consumers Buyline which was huge in the 80s but went bust when KR was convicted for running an illegal pyramid scheme. The guy is an evil genius. Sentencing is at the end of the month, and he may get life. Allison Mack will also be sentenced this month for the awful things she did, although as a victim herself, she may get some leniency.

    • MM2 says:

      It’s okay to have enough compassion & empathy for all victims, regardless of your judgement about their situations. Victim blaming isn’t a good look.

    • Kristen says:

      People aren’t more deserving of abuse just because they have money.

  9. Doodle says:

    I’ve been following this cult since the small news stories broke around 2015. It’s not mentioned in The Vow, But the fear “experiments” Raniere has the members do was totally effed up and yet another way to break members down to their most vulnerable state. The guy is so messed up! Every time someone would mention that something didn’t feel right or they didn’t like something they were told they were letting obstacles get in the way (using cult speak), turning things around on them. The indoctrination was so real and the gaslighting so strong that you don’t know how to think for yourself anymore. With calorie deficits and sleep deprivation you are more likely to succumb – Raniere had definitely studied other cult leaders and figured out how to keep himself on the top of the chain.

    • Sunnydaze says:

      I posted below, but Times Union has done a great job following this for years…and their podcast following the trial is insane. The Vow only scratches the surface!

  10. MarcelMarcel says:

    Has anyone listened to the Uncover podcast series about this? The host is a journalist who ran into his childhood friend Sarah by happenstance and finds out she in the process of leaving NXCIM. Anyhow I haven’t seen the Vow yet but I LOVED that podcast.

    • GoatGirl says:

      Yes! The podcast is amazing and I actually prefer it to the HBO doc. I’ve found the HBO doc to be a bit meandering at times.

    • Leskat says:

      I listened to that podcast and was floored by what I heard. I came away still unsure whether Sarah was as innocent as she claimed or whether she was just caught up in the intense brainwashing. She played a role in it but was also a victim herself. It was every emotion and it brought me to angry tears on behalf of those people more than once

  11. MM2 says:

    If you find this stuff fascinating, I recommend watching Wild Wild Country about the Rajneesh. It’s a show that I couldn’t stop watching & realized why my parents didn’t allow me to eat from salad bars as a kid (they still weird me out).

  12. bluerun1 says:

    Oh man, yes- I’ve been watching The Vow and whoa. Just whoa.
    It’s really hard watching some of the footage and not screaming at the the screen “How are you not seeing this little pr*ck for what he is????!!!” He looks and acts like such a nerdy loser, but then again, I wasn’t in the midst of the group, and I wasn’t caught up in his manipulations. The last episode was stomach turning and just made me angry. Absolutely incel BS that he’s trying to repackage as some kind of “heightened understanding” of men and women. Just really sick and sad.
    The Allison Mack stuff is also really sad. I know she’s a victim too, but after learning how involved she was in DOS … it’s just sad.

  13. Sunnydaze says:

    The Vow is great but OH MY GOD you have to listen to NXVIUM on Trial podcast by the Times Union in Albany. Times Union has long been critical of this “program” and gave blow by blow accounts of the trial. There is soooooo much that the Vow didn’t cover – I’m talking mass arranged abortions, coerced threesome’s with sisters, videotaping eating habits without consent of a girl who had bulimia, his underage exploits, bondage equipment including cages, two year “penance” a woman had to pay for having a relationship with another man…it also goes into lauren Salzmans testimony (apparently she had a full on breakdown on the stand and the judge had to stop questioning and Renieres lawyers threatened mistrial). The Vow gave a great into but hearing all the stuff from the trial was absolutely insane, especially since the Vow doesn’t go into Lauren leaving and all she knew and happened to her.