America first came to know Catherine Oxenberg as the beautiful, vivacious vixen on the television show Dynasty. But now the actress is revealing her real-life Hollywood horror story, a story that involved her daughter being caught in a sex trafficking ring disguised within a group called NXIVM.
"I found out that [my daughter] India was involved in this secret inner group within NXIVM, and it's just women and it's based on this slave-master hierarchy," said Oxenberg. "And they sign a lifetime vow of obedience and they are on these starvation drugs."
The horrific events did not take place from one day to the next, Oxenberg said. NXIVM had a process of how to get these young women to essentially sign their life away.
This made it hard for Oxenburg to detect something was going on, let alone understand how something like this could happen.
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"I didn't understand the grooming process, that it's a slow drift," she said. "How these groups recruit people and then slowly, methodically, they change the way they think, until they develop a totally separate cult persona. I didn't even recognize her after a few years."
Detecting the warning signs
She said that though she had a bad feeling about her daughter's situation and noticed what she later realized were subtle warning signs, they weren't signs that screamed "sex cult."
"If I had known what to look for, I would have run immediately," Oxenberg said.
The signs she noticed included being required to sign a nondisclosure agreement so members would not be able to talk about what was discussed outside of the meetings — even with family members.
"It's the first strategy they use to separate you from your family and to develop another loyalty, to bring you into their world and take you away from your world," Oxenberg said.
Oxenberg initially thought the program was a leadership program, since a friend recommended it and said it was "life-changing." Since her daughter was about to start her own business, Catherine thought it would be good for her, noting that from the outside it seemed like a self-help empowerment program.
Little did she know it was the opposite.
In June, a New York City jury convicted Keith Raniere, the co-founder of NXIVM, of several charges including sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy. Investigators said he branded women and coerced them into doing menial tasks or risk being publicly humiliated.
"They suck you in"
The more damaging acts didn't begin happening to India until about 2016, Oxenberg said.
"Again, it was a slow drip. First, she seemed more distant, more distracted, more serious, kind of burdened," she explained. "But it was slow and I wouldn't see her and she would pretend that she could come and go as she pleased, but the truth is they had her on a very tight rein and they had a lot of control and the control became absolute."
She believes her daughter was chosen for recruitment into the secret group because of her beauty, but also because of her humanitarian values.
"What they preyed upon was her goodness, her desire to be a better person, to make the world a better place, to make a difference," Oxenberg said. "It wasn't her weakness, it was her strength."
While she said her daughter was strong-willed, Raniere and his enforcers had an effect on her similar to one seen in an abusive relationship between a couple, according to Oxenberg.
"They suck you in, they build you up and then they break you down," she said.
Oxenberg, who wrote a book based on her experience, encourages parents to be aware of the warning signs a cult or similarly abusive group:
"It can happen to anybody... If it can happen to my daughter, who was so well-adjusted, so well grounded, it can happen to anyone."