Content Warning: The following article includes mentions of sexual assault.
When the news broke that former Smallville actress Allison Mack was involved in alleged cult called NXIVM with founder Keith Raniere, it was only a matter of time before the secret organization was made into a movie. Naturally, Lifetime was the first to jump at this opportunity (to boot, this NXIVM deal came paired with a College Admissions Scandal movie) with Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Save Her Daughter, airing Sept. 21.
The movie is based on the book Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult by actress Catherine Oxenberg (of original, 1980s Dynasty fame) who worked tirelessly to free her daughter, India, from sexual slavery. Ahead of the film’s premiere and almost a year after helping free her daughter, Catherine Oxenberg is speaking out about how India is doing today and why the movie is necessary.
It is troubling to even imagine what India experienced at the hands of NXIVM as details have emerged that revealed claims the cult branded Raniere’s initials onto its followers bodies, starved them, and allegedly forced them into sexual slavery. So, not only does it makes sense that Catherine would be the person to talk about the movie, since she authored the source material, but her statements also prevent India from having to relive that experience so soon.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Catherine explained that she introduced India to NXIVM because the group appeared to organize self help workshops and she thought her daughter could benefit from it. “It was a recruitment funnel for sexual partners for him, but you didn’t know that walking in,” she said. When asked how India is coping with the experience now, Catherine said, “Today she is doing amazing. It’s been a year since she’s been out. There’s been a lot of healing and she’s in a very empowered place. I’m really, really proud of her. It was a terrifying ordeal.”
Catherine admitted that it was difficult to have the movie made since it depicts a dark time in India’s life. “I was hands off for the movie,” Catherine said on GMA. “Writing the book, my focus was saving my daughter. Deciding to make the film actually was a harder decision because my daughter was out of the cult. She wants to move forward with her life. She doesn’t want the stigma of being associated with NXIVM.”
But, ultimately, Catherine knew that the information shared in the film could be very informative. She told Access Hollywood that she decided to make the NXIVM movie to “expose sexual predators and educate the public as to the predatory tactics of these sexual predators.” She continued, “Be it a Jeffrey Epstein or a [Harvey] Weinstein or something like a Keith Raniere — they use the same playbook. We would be less at risk.” She added that she wants to educate people so that they can avoid what her daughter experienced.
The actress shared with Access Hollywood that India wants to tell her story in her own words and that she plans to write a book. “I think it’s important as part of India’s healing process, as part of her reclaiming her sense of autonomy,” Catherine explained. “Feeling empowered as a woman and not as a victim anymore. She’s been bantered around and exposed so much in the press, largely at my hands, but it was the only recourse I had as far as getting her out.”
Until the details of India’s upcoming book are released, Escaping The NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Save Her Daughter will allow viewers some more insight into the alleged inner-workings of the cult and how Catherine was able to free her daughter. Hopefully, as Catherine intended, the film and subsequent documentary titled Beyond the Headlines: Escaping the NXIVM Cult with Gretchen Carlson can educate parents on signs they can recognize and prevent their children from becoming victims of similar scenarios.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).