How Nxivm survivor India Oxenberg went from an aspiring entrepreneur with dreams of launching a catering business to being lured into a cult

  • India Oxenberg told Business Insider that her entrepreneurial dream of opening a catering business drew her to Nxivm before she knew it was a cult. 
  • She spent seven years in the Nxivm cult, and alleged she was forced to become a “slave” to cult leader Keith Raniere, which included being branded with Raniere’s initials.
  • After she broke free, she said Nxivm’s promise of a “practical MBA” had initially prompted her to join. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

At 19 years old, India Oxenberg’s dream was to start a catering business in Los Angeles. She had dropped out of college, and was looking for some direction on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

So when her mother, the former “Dynasty” star Catherine Oxenberg, mentioned a new class called the “Executive Success Program run by Nxivm,” she was instantly interested. 

“I felt like I was missing a lot of skills,” Oxenberg, now 29, told Business Insider. “And I felt like I was missing the confidence that I needed to even just pursue something like that … Something entrepreneurial is hard regardless, let alone being 19.” 

At the initial pitch meeting for the program, Oxenberg said she was especially enticed by how they framed the workshop. 

“The way that they pitched it was that this was going to be a practical MBA and that it was going to be my version of alternative education,” Oxenberg said. “They said I was going to gain the skills that I needed in order to be successful in my life. And on top of it, they also sold that they would be able to remove illogical fears that were holding you back from going all in on any of your projects.” 

Oxenberg was sold on Nxivm and leader Keith Raniere’s promise to help her gain success in the business world and launch her catering company. 

“It was exactly what I wanted and what I felt like I needed,” she said. “So I was like, ‘Sign me up.'”

A seven-year ordeal

Eventually, Oxenberg dedicated seven years of her life to Nxivm, and was coerced into joining a secret “master-slave” sorority group within the group called DOS, where she was tortured and even branded with Raniere’s initials, she said. 

“At a certain point, I had to ask permission to eat, to go anywhere, and to travel,” she said. “It was a pretty intense level of control. It’s so twisted that when I look at it now, it’s just so obvious that it’s abusive. But at the time I felt like I deserved it.”

Dozens of women have since come forward with harrowing accounts of their involvement with DOS, which stands for “Dominus Obsequious Sororium,” and was also called “The Vow.” 

In March 2018, Keith Raniere was arrested in connection to DOS, and indicted on a series of federal charges including sex trafficking, conspiracy for sex trafficking, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. On June 19, 2019, Raniere was convicted of all charges, including racketeering.

Raniere maintains his innocence. “Mr. Raniere stands by his position at trial that he is innocent, and he will fight to prove his innocence in a courtroom,” his attorney Marc Agnifilo told Business Insider.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 27.

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