Actress Catherine Oxenberg is best known for her role in the 80s soap opera, “Dynasty.” She is also the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia.
Catherine has three children, two to her former husband of 16 years, actor Casper Van Dien, and her oldest, India Oxenberg, to a man she has never named.Catherine Oxenberg/Instagram
According to People, Catherine believes India is brainwashed by a cult known as NXIVM, pronounced NEX-I-um, and is now speaking out in hopes of saving her 26-year-old daughter. Reports suggest that Catherine and India attended their first meeting with NXIVM together in 2011.
Catherine told People that she learned about the alleged “self-help” group from a friend who talked very highly of it. However, while the actress found the whole thing to be “weird and creepy,” India — who was 20 years old at the time — became “intrigued” by the whole thing and attended more meeting sans her mom.
According to NXIVM’s official website, the group’s mission is “to help transform and, ultimately, be an expression of the noble civilization of humans,” explaining:
We all have the potential to live and work together, but this potential is often cut short by opposing interests and beliefs.
The leader of the group is 57-year-old Keith Raniere, but his followers reportedly call him Vanguard. They have meeting locations in New York, San Francisco, and Mexico.
As People reported:
Prior to NXIVM, Raniere founded a discount-buying club that he later shut down after 23 states and two federal agencies launched investigations into allegations that it was a pyramid scheme. Raniere admitted to no wrongdoing but agreed to pay a monetary settlement.
Soon after India got involved in NXIVM, Catherine claims she began spending all of her money on different classes offered by the group and attempting to recruit some of her friends.
At first, Catherine wanted to avoid interfering with India’s relationship with the group, but when one of her friends and former NXIVM member Bonnie Piesse told her about the role India held within the group, her biggest fears were confirmed. Piesse told Catherine:
“India was in a bad situation. One time she told me that she wasn’t going to eat for three days [out of] penance to try and correct her behavior.”
Piesse urged Catherine to “save [her] daughter.”
Catherine, who described India as “the sweetest, most non-confrontational, easiest child of all [her] children,” told People that she called up her daughter immediately and invited her home for her birthday.
During that same conversation, India told her mom that her “hair had been falling out,” and that she “hadn’t had a period in a year.” India questioned whether she should see a doctor.
The following month, when India visited her mother for her birthday, Catherine was admittedly shocked by her daughter’s “super skinny” appearance. However, India ignored all of her mom’s worries and returned to Albany, New York — her home since 2016 when she moved there to be closer to those involved in NXIVM.Catherine Oxenberg/Instagram
Sarah Edmondson, a former member of NXIVM, revealed to People that within the “cult” there is a group known as the “secret sisterhood.” Women who are admitted into the sisterhood are branded with their leader’s initials and are limited to an 800 calorie-per-day diet.
Edmondson described the moment she was branded as “the most painful, traumatic moment of [her] life.”
Catherine told People that she is sharing her story because she feels “helpless,” adding that she’s lost her daughter and “is now trying to find a way to get her back.”
Following Catherine’s story being published, both India and NXIVM have spoken out against the allegations:
India took to Facebook, writing:
For anyone who’s read the recent articles in the New York Times this may help answer some questions and alleviate any confusion. Thank you for your care and concern it’s been an incredibly sad situation and I’ve been anticipating this article. I’m absolutely fine, great actually. I would never put myself or the people I love into any danger. These are my friends and colleagues I’ve never seen anything but good come out of this work. Please share if you feel compelled to let people know what’s really going on.
Meanwhile, NXIVM specifically called out The New York Times report, saying in part:
Recently a media outlet unfoundedly, and incorrectly, linked NXIVM corporation, its founder and its related companies, with a social group. The allegations relayed in the story are built upon sources, some of which are under criminal investigation or already indicted, who act as a coordinated group. This story might be a criminal product of criminal minds who, in the end, are also hurting the victims of the story.
Unfortunately, this media outlet fell prey to these coordinated, criminal efforts. NXIVM was not able to participate in this story because it painfully held true to the due process of our free world justice system.
We will explore any and all legal remedies to correct these lies.
The last time Catherine has seen or talked with India is unknown.