Lost and unsure of where she wanted to go in life, she fell prey to the group’s ‘Executive Success Program’ (ESP), at the recommendation of a family friend.
Now, at 29, she shares harrowing details of her life while under NXIVM’s hold, including the chilling details of how she was allegedly lured into the seemingly innocuous group and brainwashed and blackmailed into staying subservient to Smallville actress Allison Mack.
NXIVM, which was founded by failed businessman Raniere in 1998, began as a multi-level marketing scheme before it repotedly devolved into a 'sex cult'. It recruited multiple celebrities and wealthy members as it gained momentum in the early '00s, consisting of over 3,700 members by 2003.
But perhaps the most alarming aspect of Oxenberg's seven-year-long membership was the abuse she says followed her experience with the cult’s sub-sorority Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), including the lead-up to one horrific evening in January, 2016 where she was horrifically branded as part of an initiation ceremony—an idea that was introduced by Mack.
In an interview with People, she recalls the life-changing events.
“I had two women holding my hands and my feet so I wouldn’t convulse,” she said.
“I remember the smell—of flesh. I remember crying but not with pain… there was no choice to say no.”
However, Oxenberg explains the complexity of the manipulation imposed on the cult's members, where they were steered to believe they were thinking independently.
"The circumstances pushed us to our limits, to the point where you would think you were making the choice to get branded," she said.
Oxenberg also opens up about her gratitude for her mother’s tireless efforts to remove her from the cult, crediting her for the reason she was able to escape relatively in-tact.
“I don’t think anybody thinks that they could lose their life, but still be here. But the reality is that my life was hijacked by this group. And the fact that I get a second change to actually just have my life and be a normal 29-year-old—and not have everything be lost, and be one of these women is going to spend the rest of their life either in jail or under house arrest, or with the mark of Keith Raniere—is remarkable to me. And that’s because of what she did,” she said.
Catherine Oxenberg shared her feelings about Allison Mack and Keith Raniere to People last year.
"It’s so many layers of disgust. When you think it can’t get worse, it does. The layers of sadism and cruelty are endless," she said.
Opening up about her close ties to Mack, who was once Oxenberg's roommate, she explains the actress' hold on her.
“She had a lot of power and control over me and I was scared of her but she can’t hurt me anymore. I think in a lot of ways she saw herself as a Joan of Arc character, willing to fall on a sword for Keith,” she said.
Mack, 38 was arrested in 2018 and pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering charges.
Read everything we know about the remaining members here.