India Oxenberg Breaks Silence About 'Years of Grooming' in Alleged Sex Cult NXIVM

India and Catherine Oxenberg sat down for an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America."
India and Catherine Oxenberg sat down for an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America."
Good Morning America

India Oxenberg, the daughter of "Dynasty" actress Catherine Oxenberg, broke her silence for the first time in an exclusive interview Tuesday with Good Morning America, speaking about her experience with NXIVM, the self-proclaimed self-help group that New York prosecutors have described as a "sex cult". 

In the interview, India shared that she joined the widely popular group, NXIVM, when she was only 19 years old. The group, run by Keith Raniere, claimed to have nearly 16,000 members, including Hollywood stars and millionaires.

Initially, India and her mom went to the first meeting together. But the two say they were later distanced from each other by the group. India, who is now 29, spent nearly seven years in the group.

"That was all strategic. And we were unaware of why they were doing that at the time," the mother and actress told ABC News. "I learned that it was something called, 'parental alienation.'"

Catherine fought for years to help her daughter leave. India says in her time with NXIVM she paid nearly $100,000 to Raniere, who called himself "Vanguard."

"That's years of grooming. And when you're unaware, it's so easy to be led astray, especially by people who are masters at manipulation," she said. "He's a master of manipulation. If there's one thing he's intelligent at, it's that."

Raniere created a secret sorority inside the group where women were told to have sex with him and be his sex slaves, according to prosecutors. He allegedly blackmailed the women with "collateral." India said that "Smallville" actress Allison Mack first introduced her to the society.

"The relationship took a different turn when I was commanded to do a seduction assignment. That was the beginning of continual sexual abuse. I didn't see it as that at the time," she said.

"At the time I thought I was doing this empowering bonding moment with a group of friends that I considered my nearest and dearest," she said. "It was a trap. And it was a ploy for Keith to enslave women for his own sexual desires."

In a new STARZ documentary, "Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult," set to premiere Sunday, Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. ET, India Oxenberg visits the house where she and others were branded with Raniere's initials.

"I remember the smell — of flesh," India said. "I remember crying but not with pain. There was no choice to say no."

"We were told that it was a symbol of the elements. And we were sleep-deprived, we were starved, we were coerced. You don't just decide to be branded."

India's mother spent years publicly and privately fighting to free her daughter from the group. 

"When I first confronted her in May 2017 I thought I could wake her up. She was brainwashed and was in a cult. I said I knew about the blackmail and to not let that be why she stays in," her mother said. 

"I was too deeply in. I was scared and confused," India admitted. "You don't have to be in a cult to be coerced. You don't have to live with Keith Raniere haunting you. You can live your life."

Her mother added that getting someone out of “a cult” is very different than a drug intervention, "because their critical thinking has been taken away. And so the process of working with — a cult defector is to reawaken and reignite their critical thinking."

India added, "I started working with a de-programmer who helped me tremendously," she said. "But you have to be open to it. Like, you can't force somebody to see the truth. They need to want to. And I didn't want to for a long time."

"I was scared to death but it didn't matter if I was scared," Catherine said in an interview with PEOPLE Magazine. "I knew what I was up against. I knew nobody had dared to do what I was doing because this cult had financially ruined them. I had to save my daughter."

"I can't describe in words how grateful I am for that. Because the truth is, I didn't see a future for myself when I was there," India said. "I was really kind of committed to being there forever, indefinitely. "India eventually came out about the group after Raniere and Mack were arrested in 2018.

Allison Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy. Keith Raniere was convicted of sex-trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy, and faces up to life in prison when sentenced this month.

Oxenberg plans to attend Raniere's sentencing and deliver a victim impact statement. She put a tattoo of an evil eye over the scar of the brand, and wrote "ancora imparo," which means, "still learning."

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