If you’ve been watching The Vow, HBO’s bombshell docuseries about the NXIVM cult, you’ve seen India Oxenberg’s friends and family — including her mother, Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg — fight to get India out from under the thumb of cult leader Keith Raniere. Now, India is telling her own story.
While on the surface NXIVM was an organization dedicated to self-improvement, behind the scenes it was something far more sinister. A secretive, all-female group called DOS was formed, and its leaders extracted collateral from its members to blackmail them into master-slave relationships that all lead back to Raniere.
And none of it would have been possible without his right-hand woman, Smallville star Allison Mack.
India was a dedicated member of NXIVM when Mack invited her to join DOS. She told People on Thursday:
“Allison said she had a special program she thought could help me. I felt singled out. I felt special.”
Of course! How could you not trust Chloe Sullivan for crying out loud??
But rather than enriching the 29-year-old’s life, the program nearly destroyed it. The collateral India gave was as if she “handed over the keys to lock myself in prison,” as she put it. As her “master,” Mack required India to live on an extreme 500-calorie a day diet, and worse, forced her into a sexual relationship with Raniere. India explained:
“One of my first commands from Allison was to seduce Keith. At the time, I believed it was a place I could push against fear and vulnerability. That’s what I was told the assignment was. I wanted to believe Allison.”
Failure to give in to the CW star’s demands resulted in punishments like cold showers and being forced to do planks. India said:
“I was coerced and manipulated and believed what I was doing was helping me when I was really just serving Keith.”
Elsewhere, she added:
“You get so used to this environment of abuse that you believe you’re deserving of it, that it’s good for you. … I didn’t want to see it as sexual abuse.”
It’s still so hard to believe Allison would do all this, even for India.
Despite the years of indoctrination and perpetuating abuse, India claimed to see a hint of humanity in her former friend shortly before her arrest in 2018. She shared:
“She grabbed my hand. She said ‘I don’t know if I’m making the right decision. What if I wanted to have children or a husband?’ She started to question her choices. I had never seen her vulnerable.”
Wow. she almost had a moment of clarity; sadly it didn’t last.
India had previously reflected on her close relationship with Allison, saying:
“She had a lot of power and control over me and I was scared of her but she can’t hurt me anymore. I think in a lot of ways she saw herself as a kind of Joan of Arc character, willing to fall on a sword for Keith.”
You can catch more of India’s story in the upcoming Starz documentary Seduced: Inside the Nxivm Cult starting October 18.
[Image via Joseph Marzullo/WENN & ABC/YouTube]