Former 'Dynasty' star Catherine Oxenberg feared losing daughter to NXIVM sex cult: 'At times I lost hope'
Former “Dynasty” actress Catherine Oxenberg is grateful she was able to save her daughter India from the alleged sex cult NXIVM.
The 58-year-old recently shared her story in the memoir “Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult.”
“The last thing I wanted to do was expose my daughter publicly,” the actress recently told Closer Weekly. “It was a last resort because I failed at an intervention, and the fear was I could lose her forever. I knew she could be sitting where [senior NXIVM figure and former ‘Smallville’ actress] Allison Mack is now, facing years in jail. At times I lost hope.”
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“… I was convinced the moment that Keith Raniere was arrested that that would wake her up, but that failed,” continued Oxenberg. “There were many times I didn’t have hope, and my life was threatened. But then the government called my lawyers and said ‘we want Catherine to know we’re moving in with the FBI aggressively.’ That was the moment when I had hope.”
Back in 2011, Oxenberg and India, who is 28 today, attended an NXIVM class after a friend of the actress told her about a life-changing course conducted by the group. Oxenberg wasn’t that interested after the initial introduction, but India was, and she wanted to continue the program with her mom.
India became increasingly drawn to the group and even donated the majority of her inheritance to NXIVM.
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It took several years for India to finally leave NXIVM in 2017 — and it took Oxenberg publicly speaking out against the group, jeopardizing the relationship with her daughter.
“India is very committed to her healing process,” said Oxenberg about her daughter today. “She understands what happened to her and she is empowered. I’m doing everything that I can to spend time with my other girls; Maya just started college and [Celeste] is in 11th grade. I tapped into a quality of maternal strength that I didn’t know I had. That I would be willing to risk my life for my child. I know myself better, and I have become a more courageous person as a result of my ordeal. My children taught me what it means to really love somebody. I’m proud to be a mom.”
Raniere, 58, was found guilty in June of this year of sex-trafficking and coercing women into sex. Prosecutors told jurors that Raniere – known to his followers as “Vanguard” and revered as “the smartest man in the world” – was actually a creepy con man who barely got passing grades in college. According to testimony, Raniere’s “slaves” were forced to give up nude photos and other material as “collateral” to keep them in line.
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Among the more damning allegations against Raniere were that he had some women branded with his initials and that he started having sex with a follower when she was 15. Prosecutors said he took nude photos of the teen that were shown, one by one, to the eight women and four men on the jury.
These days, Oxenberg is moving forward with her life and has even found romance along the way.
“He’s not in the entertainment business, which is thrilling for me,” she told the outlet. “But how I met him is because my house burned down [in Malibu last November]. He wasn’t a firefighter, but he was definitely a first responder. He reached out through family friends, texted me 48 hours after the fire and said, ‘I have a home in Brentwood that’s empty, and you’re welcome to stay with your family.’ And we fell in love. I met him [less than a year] ago, and he’s, I would say, the love of my life.”
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Back in August 2018, Oxenberg claimed to Fox News that some of the women associated with NXIVM were put on strict diets that were 500 to 800 calories a day.
“Keith had a specific body type that he was attracted to and he wanted women to be very thin, so they were on starvation diets,” she said, adding that a lot of the women in this subgroup were also "given an assignment to have sex with him.”
“They didn’t want to, but they felt obligated to because they felt like if they didn’t, if they said no to their master, then they were going to release this collateral. So at so many levels, this was just so wrong.”
Oxenberg, who found out all of these details out within a two-week period, said that the moment that she “completely lost” her mind was when she found out “they were branding the women with [Raniere’s] initials on their pubic area.”
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After learning about the subgroup and what they were doing, Oxenberg took action.
“First to educate myself about cults than to figure out how I was going to do an intervention, and then it’s kind of snowballed from there," she said. "It’s the most horrific group, touting itself as female empowerment that’s how subversive it is.”
Oxenberg said her daughter was not a sex slave.
“That’s not her experience,” the actress said. “And what she shared with me doesn’t seem like that that was her experience at all.”
To get her daughter out, Oxenberg took her battle public and let the world know she was trying to save India from NXIVM.
"There’s a chance she could never come out of this, and she’s too good to have that life. She deserves something better. So the risk that I took is permanent estrangement, and for over a year she wouldn’t talk to me. She was very, very angry that I had made this decision to expose her.”
But for Oxenberg, it was all worth it. Now, India is back at home.
“She is such a brilliant, beautiful, young woman and she’s going to be more than OK,” Oxenberg said. “And ultimately she will come out the wiser for it, and she will have a gift to offer for the world because of what she’s been through and because of the depth of her experience."
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“I have to also respect that this was her journey," Oxenberg added. "And eventually, I will understand why she chose to go through this, and what gift she has to offer the world as a result of this.”
Fox News’ Mariah Haas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.