HAVE you heard of the NXIVM (pronounced Nixium) cult? Its leader, Keith Raniere, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison last year. The totally riveting true crime docu-miniseries,”Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult”, is now available on Starz and it’s told by a cult victim herself, India Oxenberg, who was a member for 7 years until Raniere was arrested by the FBI.
India is the eldest daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg, best known for playing Amanda Carrington in “Dynasty” in the 80s and as Princess Diana in two TV films in 1982 and 1992. In the docu, Catherine admits that she was the one who first learned about NXIVM and brought her daughter to its seminar in 2011.
NXIVM started as a self improvement, business oriented course with their so-called ESP or Executive Success Programs. Catherine quit after one course but India became heavily involved in what would she later realized is a cult. She’s being manipulated and brainwashed without her even being conscious of it.
Keith’s original intention is good: for us to have a better world with people being more compassionate and more aware of their full potentials. He’s a charismatic, very articulate speaker, so it’s easy to see why he easily gained a lot of followers who believe in his noble intentions to change people and the world for the better.
But he later used it for his own evil selfish motives to bed some women members. He claims to his members that he is celibate, but two female members laters revealed he got them pregnant and had their babies aborted. The docu is India’s own account of how she fell into NXIVM thinking it will open the secrets of the universe for her, without knowing it’s actually a dangerous trap.
In the course of the docu, she admits her own culpability, her mistakes in distancing herself from her concerned mother and family, and how she later tries to heal herself and rebuild her damaged relationship with her caring mom. The scenes showing her reconciliation with her mom are all very touching.
Other victims of the cult allowed themselves to be interviewed in the docu, along with opinions from various cult experts and therapists who help India to heal, also lawyers and prosecutors who help bring NXIVM and its sexual predator founder to court.
At first, India turned down all media requests for interviews but after undergoing therapy, she gained courage to share her story and decided to do the docu. The most shocking thing in the docu is learning that some women allowed themselves to be blatantly used by Raniere in recruiting other women to be sexually abused by him on the guise that it’s part of their self-help program.
Foremost among these accomplices is actress Allison Mack (best known for “Smallville”), who became India’s personal master while she is her slave. India says she was initially attracted by the NXIVM workshops that promise to improve her communication and business skills and boost her self esteem.
After one course, she’s urged to take another one and the curriculum transformed her into a staunch believer of NXIVM. Allison Mack becomes her good friend and introduces to DOS or The Vow, a secret society of women where they will be the best version of their own selves. But members are required to submit personal collateral (secrets about themselves and their families) as part of their vow to be loyal to the organization.
India doesn’t know that this act only makes her fall deeper into the nefarious clutches of the cult leader. As a member of The Vow, she is subjected to forced starvation, sleep deprivation, physical punishment, emotional abuse and being branded with their leader’s initials, KR, using a cauterizing needle on her groin area without anesthesia.
A former member of NXIVM named Bonnie Piesse, an Australian musician and actress, is revolted by all this and left the group then warned India’s mom to save her daughter from the cult. The docu’s last episode shows Catherine’s personal crusade to get back her indoctrinated daughter, who refuses to be rescued. She calls on law enforcers to help her, but to no avail.
She then resorts to asking the help of media and exposed the cult in the New York Times, which became very effective in calling public attention to the issue. She also allowed herself to be interviewed on TV and soon, the FBI starts conducting investigation on Raniere who then tries to escape to Mexico.
The last episode shows India’s rude awakening to Rainere’s reign of terror and exploitation on her and other women. She later gives some important evidence to the prosecutors to expose Raniere and his crimes. He was convicted for racketeering and sex trafficking. This should be required viewing, specially for young impressionable girl so they can easily see the warning signs of possible predators.
Raniere’s case is reminiscent of another financier-sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, who abused many women and children and died in his jail cell last year. Through the years, we’ve heard of so many other cults and it can only mean that truly, a gullible sucker, is born every minute. There’s another docu series, “The Vow”, on HBO made by people who used to work with Raniere and got disillusioned. But it runs for nine episode and the structure is very loose compared to the tight and more cohesive story told by India and her mom in “Seduced” at only four compact episodes.