Years after India Oxenberg — one of the women brainwashed by the NXIVM cult — was branded with the founder’s initials, she shared the nightmarish details about the terrifying initiation.
“I had two women holding my hands and my feet, so I wouldn’t convulse,” India Oxenberg said to PEOPLE when recounting the night she was branded with the initials of Keith Raniere, head of the now-infamous NXIVM organization. The 29-year-old daughter of Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg was chosen to join NXIVM’s master-slave sorority, DOS. As part of her initiation, she was instructed to remove her clothes and join several other women in a room with a table. That was when she was branded. “I remember the smell — of flesh,” said India. “I remember crying but not with pain. There was no choice to say no.”
India was recruited to join the group by Allison Mack, the former Smallville actress who would eventually become India’s “master.” At the time, India and the other women involved in DOS were told the brand was a “symbol of the elements.” It seems that Allison could have told her the brand stood for anything because India told PEOPLE that she was so involved in NXIVM, she had lost the ability to think for herself. “The circumstances pushed us to our limits, to the point where you would think you were making the choice to get branded,” she said.
NXIVM billed as a self-help organization, and India joined in search of direction and help on to improve her life. What she found was a world of brainwashing, blackmail, and physical abuse. Women were routinely starved, forced to engage in sexual acts, subjected to “extortion compelled abortions,” and utterly dehumanized. India’s story is part of the upcoming STARZ four-part docuseries, Seduced: Inside the Nxivm Cult. In the series, she goes into detail about her trauma in NXIVM, including how she was groomed to be a sex slave for the organization’s founder. “One of my first commands was to seduce Keither,” said India. “I was told it was an assignment to make me feel less vulnerable.”
India’s mother, who first went public with her fight to save her daughter in 2017, said she was “scared to death” to sound the alarm about the evil going on behind the NXIVM organization. “[B]ut it didn’t matter if I was scared,” says Catherine, per People. “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.” India said she “can’t describe in words how grateful I am for” her mother’s courage because she was so brainwashed by the cult that she was “committed to being there forever, indefinitely.”
Keith and Allison were arrested in 2018. After a week-long trial, a jury found Raniere guilty of racketeering, sex trafficking, and possession of child pornography. Allison Mack pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of racketeering (including extortion and forced labor). Keith will be sentenced on Oct. 27, and Allison still awaits to learn her fate.