In June, former Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg happily gave her daughter India a hug for the first time in months. “I showered her with kisses,” Catherine exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “Even though she was mad at me it didn’t stop me from being ridiculously affectionate.”
For more than six years, India had been in the grips of Nxivm (pronounced nexium), a self-help organization Catherine helped expose as an alleged sadistic sex cult. “I knew I had to try to get her out,” Catherine said. “My God, I love her so much!”
Since April 2017, when she fully realized the danger, Catherine strategized how to convince India, 27, to leave the cult, including staging an intervention that nearly destroyed their bond. Now in her new book, Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult, Catherine, 56, tells her cautionary tale.
“My goal was to break down the steps of indoctrination, to show that India had been victimized,” she said of the book, which she wrote before knowing if her daughter would escape. “If this can happen to India, who is probably one of the most level-headed, sensible, intelligent young women, it can happen to anybody.”
Her nightmare began in 2011, when Catherine and India, fresh out of school, attended a Nxivm workshop together. “It was pitched as this incredible business seminar to help increase critical thinking [and] communication skills,” Catherine recalled. India loved it, but Catherine was skeptical. “They had weird rituals,” she said. “Weird mission statements they made you [say].”
They also asked participants to sign non-disclosure agreements and separated mother and daughter into different groups. “It was already putting a wedge between my world and a loyalty to [them],” she said. Catherine dropped out but India stayed, and eventually moved to Nxivm’s headquarters in Albany, NY.
Catherine soon noticed changes in her daughter. They did speak on the phone, but India became secretive and seemed exhausted. “They recruited her as a coach,” Catherine shared. “She was volunteering all her time and resources,” which included thousands of dollars. “Level One [costs] $7,500 and as a coach it’s mandatory every time [founder] Keith Raniere rolls out a new program,” Catherine explained.
“I didn’t know they were dangerous,” she insisted, admitting to feeling guilty for not realizing sooner. “They didn’t say, ‘Hey we’re going to brand your daughter and recruit her as a slave.'” But they did. Smallville actress Allison Mack, 36, was India’s “master,” Catherine said. “Allison recruited her into DOS,” a secret sorority that involved branding women with Keith and Allison’s initials.
After a detective warned her about what was happening, “I flipped out,” Catherine said. Wary of alienating India further, she read books on cults and talked to experts. “I needed to go get her, but I knew I had to be strategic,” she said. She approached the New York attorney general and the FBI, who ultimately arrested Raniere, 57, Mack, and four other Nxivm members, who are awaiting trial for sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and other charges.
Now out of Nxivm, India is “incredible,” Catherine — whose foundation provides exit counseling for defectors of the cult — said. “I am getting to experience the India I knew before, so that is a testament to how strong she is. The best part is that I get to spend time with her and I treasure every moment.”
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