The daughter of Catherine Oxenberg talks to ET about reclaiming her voice with the Starz docuseries 'Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.'
After escaping NXIVM in 2018, India Oxenberg is finally ready to tell her story. The 29-year-old survivor and daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg is speaking out for the first time in the intensely intimate and emotional Starz docuseries Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, detailing her seven years spent inside Keith Raniere’s self-help organization, which was eventually exposed as a pyramid scheme and cult that subjected female recruits to sexual slavery.
“I needed time and I needed space to just take care of myself and process what I had just gone through in the past seven years of my life,” India tells ET, finding that writing about her experience was “very cathartic and helpful.”
But it was after meeting filmmakers Cecilia Peck, who was also recruited by NXIVM, and Inbal B. Lessner and learning about the direction of their project that she wanted to become involved on camera. “They wanted it to be a women’s production focused on women’s stories that was raw, real and vulnerable, and showed the complexity of indoctrination and coercion in high-controlled groups,” India says, adding that she saw it as the “best and the purest approach I wanted to take.”
Over the course of four episodes, India and several other female NXIVM survivors detail personal experiences within the organization, including allegations of forced starvation, getting branded with Raniere’s initials under the secret master-slave system created by him and Smallville actress Allison Mack, attempts to get out and how they’re recovering in the years since.
“I went into NXIVM looking for a more purposeful life, and I thought that these people wanted that too. But then I went through something that I don’t wish upon anybody, ” India says in the series, before adding, “It’s taken me over 50 hours of working with a therapist to even be able to say the words that something sexual did happen between Keith and I.”
“I didn’t sign my daughter up for a sex cult,” Catherine previously told ET in 2019 about how she and India first got involved and continues to holds herself accountable for what ultimately happened to her daughter. “The truth is, what we went to was an intro for a leadership program. It could have been any self-help program, and that’s the truth. Nobody signs up to join a cult. These cults very often have consumer-facing companies offering real and viable resources and tools. And that’s what this was.”
Since NXIVM was exposed by an explosive 2017 New York Times investigation, Catherine has documented her fight to save India in the press, the 2018 memoir Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult, and the subsequent Lifetime film Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother's Fight to Save Her Daughter. She currently stars in the HBO docuseries The Vow, which captured her ongoing journey in real time.
The Vow, which was told through the lens of former members on the outside, ends the same day Seduced premieres, with India only appearing in the latter. India says that she and Catherine spoke at length about the two projects and which was the right choice for her to tell her story. “I didn’t want to with The Vow and I did with Starz, and my mother was fine with that,” India shares, adding that she hasn’t watched any of the HBO program. “She just knew how important it was for me to reclaim my voice and to tell my truth.”
That truth includes many intense and sometimes hard revelations to swallow, with several allegations of assault and sexual abuse against Raniere, who was convicted in 2019 on seven charges, including sex trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy, and Mack, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and someone who India also considers a victim of Raniere’s manipulation. (Both are awaiting sentencing.)
“What happened is she was targeted by Keith like I was, but she went down a much deeper and darker path,” India claims, adding that she believed the actress who eventually made India her slave initially had “good intentions” when joining NXIVM. “And along the way, things went awry, severely, to the point where she was doing things that were criminal.”
India adds, “I have a lot of sympathy for her, and I think that she is also a victim of Keith’s. But I also know what she did to me and other women was very cruel and criminal.”
When it comes to recounting all her traumas and experiences about what happened in NXIVM and DOS, which was the cover for the group’s most nefarious acts, India says it was really hard. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it… There were days where I just felt so exhausted.” However, her belief in the project -- and what it can do to not only help her reclaim her voice but also help others -- is what kept her going.
“My hope is that other people will avoid this. I don’t want other women to fall victim to something like this because there were so many warning signs that I didn’t see because of the indoctrination and the coercion,” India says, adding that speaking out was “really important for my own healing, too.”
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult premieres on Sunday, Oct. 18th at 9 p.m. ET/PT on STARZ and the STARZ App.