Catherine Oxenberg Pleads for Authorities to Stop Nxivm: 'Brainwashing Is Not Consent'
Speaking on Megyn Kelly Today, the actress said that women who have left the group led by Keith Raniere, who is known as Vanguard to his followers, have alerted police to what’s happening inside, including the alleged branding of members with Raniere’s initials and recruiting women to have sex with him. However, they have not stepped in, she said.
The group’s leaders have not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Nxivm responded to a recent New York Times article about the group with a statement that called the story “a criminal product of criminal minds.” Yet allegations about the group have prompted the New York State Governor’s Counsel to launch a review into the matter.
Oxenberg explained going to the media, which she said angered her daughter, is her last resort.
She said, “I’m only doing this to bring awareness because without awareness, there can be no outrage. And unless there’s outrage, authorities are not going to step in and do what they should do which is shut this down and stop this from happening.”
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The Dynasty star, 56, explained that authorities have dismissed reports, saying there is nothing they can do because the members are “consenting” to the practices.
“To me, brainwashing is not consent,” Oxenberg said. “Extortion is not consent. Blackmail is not consent.”
Oxenberg also said that defectors of the group told her that they have to hand over collateral such as nude photographs or taped confessions to gain admission to the group and stay in it. They also must sign a lifetime vow of obedience, she said.
The actress also claimed on Megyn Kelly Today that Nxivm is doing “experiments,” hooking the members up to EEG machines and being forced to watch videos of women being dismembered and decapitated.
“To me, this is terrorist training,” she said on the show. “You do that to desensitize somebody so that maybe they will accept branding themselves and branding other women. That they’ll accept this level of violence against women. I can’t believe this is allowed.”
In 2011, Oxenberg saw an opportunity to bond with her then 20-year-old daughter after she learned from a friend about a self-improvement program called Nxivm (pronounced NEX-I-um) and they decided to attend a meeting together.
For nearly 20 years, an estimated 16,000 people have paid as much as $3,400 for an executive-coaching workshop offered by the Albany, N.Y.-based organization. With locations in New York, San Francisco and Mexico, the group claims to take people on a journey of personal discovery and development.
Oxenberg initially found the program to be “weird and creepy,” she says. But India — “the sweetest, most nonconfrontational, easiest child of all my children” — was intrigued. She threw herself into the organization over the next few years, attending more and more of its costly classes, recruiting friends and emptying her bank account of her inheritance, her mother says.
Oxenberg initially resisted interference and judgment. Then her fears were confirmed last April, in a conversation with a friend, Bonnie Piesse, 34, who’d recently left the group herself and detailed India’s role in what Oxenberg calls a “secret sisterhood” within Nxivm.
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“You need to save your daughter,” Piesse told her. “You need to save India.”
Not long after talking to Piesse in April, Oxenberg reached out to India, who moved from L.A. to Albany in 2016, and invited her home for her birthday. Before hanging up, Oxenberg says her daughter told her, “ ‘Mom, my hair has been falling out, and I haven’t had a period in a year. Maybe I should see a doctor?’ ”
When she arrived home later in May, an alarmed Oxenberg says she confronted her “superskinny” daughter, begging her to get help. She says India dismissed her concerns, returned to Albany then next day and then stopped communicating with her.
On Oct. 19, India posted a message on her Facebook page: “I’m absolutely fine, great actually. I would never put myself or the people I love into any danger.”