This is the continuation of the first installment of a new category in the Frank Report: “NXIVM Docs.” The purpose of this new category is to register documents and media reports, so that researchers, historians and interested people can find these things.
‘Collateral Damage’ was an episode of Dateline. NBC aired the show on Mar 2 2021.
You can read the Part 1 in the link below:
KATE SNOW (voice over): India Oxenberg had given up almost everything for NXIVM, her life in California, her family and friends, her career – as part of the secret sorority called DOS, she handed over sexually explicit pictures of herself and damaging lies about her family. She had agreed to obey her so-called ‘master’, Allison Mack, who now had another demand: India and the others were about to be branded.
INDIA OXENBERG:I remember saying to Alison, ‘do we really have to do this?’ Like there was a part of me that was still there that didn’t want this.
KATE SNOW: Is it still vivid in your mind, India?
INDIA OXENBERG: Yes, the answer is yes.
KATE SNOW (voice over): The unusual ritual took place inside the NXIVM compound. India’s skin would be scarred with a searing hot instrument, a cauterizing pen – branded like cattle. It seems unimaginable that the members of DOS would submit to this, but they did. India had already watched when Daniel Roberts became the first in her group to get one.
INDIA OXENBERG: I watched that happen to Danielle without even really registering that that was going to happen to me. It was almost like, OK, that happened to you. Now, moving on, it’s very common that people will dissociate from experiences that are traumatic. And the brand to me is one of those experiences where we were really out of our bodies when it was happening to us.
KATE SNOW: What was the scene like when you got the brand? Because there were other women in the room watching, right?
DANIELLE ROBERTS: Well, I had a few of my friends with me. One was up by my by my head kind of stroking my head. Another one was holding my hand. Another one was helping to secure my leg. She stroking my hair, whispering like encouraging things into my ear, helping my leg not move. So I don’t get hurt in a caring, loving way.
KATE SNOW: As an outsider, imagining the scene and hearing what you’re describing, it is really hard to understand.
DANIELLE ROBERTS: I know. I know.
KATE SNOW: Even your explanation right now, you’re describing it to me, makes me wince. Makes me think. I just can’t imagine.
DANIELLE ROBERTS: What about it?
KATE SNOW: The pain of having a cauterizing pen on my flesh, I can’t I can’t imagine that. What I can’t imagine why I would do that. Help me understand why you would do that.
DANIELLE ROBERTS: I think it’s very simple. I mean, we wanted to be part of a kickass organization where women were really committed to making a difference in the world, that was the price of entry, you know, and that was something that would join us all together. We can do that. We can do anything.
KATE SNOW (voice over): It was India’s turn later. By that time, she was so used to following orders, she says she saw no way out.
KATE SNOW: The branding is hard to understand. How did you decide to go ahead with that?
INDIA OXENBERG: It’s not really much of a decision. It was a command. So part of being in DOS and pledging to this sorority was agreeing to be branded. But we were also told that the brand was going to be, you know, the size of a quarter.
KATE SNOW (voice over): In fact, the scars on India and the other women were much larger on very sensitive skin in their pelvic areas.
INDIA OXENBERG: And it was going to be cauterized into and it was going to be cauterized into our skin. None of that was explained to us in detail. We are talking about women that are sleep deprived, women that are deprived of food, women that have already given tons of collateral. The option to run away and say no isn’t really an option anymore.
KATE SNOW: What on earth was that like?
INDIA OXENBERG: It was mixed. I mean, there was a part of me and the other women that felt like it was a bonding experience, like we were doing something really difficult together. And then there was another part of me that was also terrified of what was going on. And the pain was something like that I had never experienced before. There was no anesthesia. There was no numbing cream. There was none of that.
KATE SNOW (voice over): It wasn’t clear at the time. But they would later learn the brand was KAR, the initials of Keith Alan Raniere. The brandings were supposed to be secret, but when word got to India’s mother, NXIVM’s days were numbered.
LESTER HOLT: Coming up, an alarming phone call. What an ex-NXIVM member told Catherine.
CATHERINE OXENBERG (on tape): I fear for India’s life. She’s in danger. You have to save her
LESTER HOLT: When Dateline continues.
KATE SNOW (voice over): As darkness fell over Los Angeles one evening in the spring of 2017, Catherine Oxenberg had no clue what was really happening with her daughter. India, who’d been involved with NXIVM for six years, was on the other side of the country, in Albany. Out of the blue, Catherine got a series of frightening text messages. They were from an actor Bonnie Piesse. Bonnie was never a part of DOS, but she was a long time NXIVM follower who had recently defected from the group. After reading the texts, Katherine called Bonnie.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: And she said, ‘I’m afraid to talk to you on the phone. Will you meet me in person?’ ‘But I have to tell you that I’m really I fear for India’s life’. ‘She’s in danger. You have to save her’.
KATE SNOW: You hear. ‘I’m afraid for her life’. ‘She’s in danger.’ Did you breakdown?
CATHERINE OXENBERG: Well, no, because I’m thinking, is this woman crazy? But I immediately I said, OK, I’ll meet you tomorrow. So I met with her. She was shaking and I wrote down everything that she said. And she basically gave me a breakdown of everything she knew up to that point. She told me about this group, this inner circle called DOS Dominance Obsequious Sororium. And it was part of a group that was a master-slave arrangement.
KATE SNOW: When she says that.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: It takes me a while to process, so I’m writing everything down just so that I can figure it out for myself. Then, she says they’re on diets. She said they’re sleep deprived. They’re on what’s called readiness drills, which means that if their master contacts them and they don’t respond within 60 seconds, they’re punished. The punishments could be that they’re starved even more. They have these penances they have to do. If somebody fails at an assignment, then somebody else is held responsible.
KATE SNOW: You have to pay the price for something.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: And it just got darker and darker. And then she said they’ve had to sign over collateral in order to join admission to this group. And then she said on top of everything else, they’ve had to sign a vow, a lifetime vow of obedience to their master. So I’m reeling.
KATE SNOW (voice over): Catherine could not process what she was learning, but she quickly made the decision to lure India home to Los Angeles with the promise of a big birthday party, a party that was really a planned intervention. Then a few days later, another actor, Sara Edmondson, who had also defected, told Catherine about the branding.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: And I found out two days before India was scheduled to come to L.A. for her, like the pseudo birthday party that I’d planned. That was really an intervention.
KATE SNOW: It looks like it really pains you when you talk about the branding.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: It pains me on many levels. One young woman, her master, said, ‘I’m so excited for you. You’re going to be involved in this very special ritual. You’re going to be on lockdown for a couple of days. I’m not going to tell you anything about it.’ Can you imagine? That’s a very special ceremony? Being branded with this man’s initials, with a cauterizing pen, without any anesthetic?
KATE SNOW: Your daughter had that done.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: Yes. India.
KATE SNOW: Did you tell your mom about the branding?
INDIA OXENBERG: No. My mom actually questioned me first about the branding and I was shocked. I had no idea my mom knew about the branding. I had no idea anybody outside of DOS had spoken about DOS, at that point.
KATE SNOW (voice over): Catherine’s attempted intervention did not work. India was in too deep and had no intention of leaving DOS. In fact, she had her own so-called slaves and was actively trying to persuade other women to join.
KATE SNOW: You did recruit other women?
INDIA OXENBERG: I did. I was commanded to recruit other women into this group. And there was a part of me that really believed that this was good, while I was in there.
KATE SNOW (voice over): After India returned to Albany, Catherine declared war on NXIVM and Keith Raniere, and her first call was to an unlikely ally.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: He had written some pretty incendiary blogs about case, about the Brockman’s, about the organization. And I called him and I said, ‘I see that you haven’t written any blogs recently. Are you aware what’s going on right now?’
KATE SNOW (voice over): His name, Frank Parlato, and he had quite a history with the group. Ten years earlier, he worked for NXIVM as a public-relations consultant.
KATE SNOW: What did you think of the organization at first?
FRANK PARLATO: I thought the people were delightful. I thought that Keith was a very fun loving, kind of charming person.
KATE SNOW (voice over): But that all changed. Frank says he uncovered financial improprieties by Raniere. When he started to investigate, Frank says Raniere fired him. Soon after he was sued by Claire Bronfman, who bankrolled NXIVM.
KATE SNOW: You believe they were coming after you legally as retaliation.
FRANK PARLATO: That, and just for the pure sport of it, because I believe that Keith Raniere does these things just to destroy other people. You know, he’s had more than 40 lawsuits against people that either worked for him, were students of his or were his lovers.
KATE SNOW (voice over): Most of the lawsuits didn’t go anywhere. But by 2015, Frank was facing other legal problems. He was indicted on financial and tax charges, including fraud and money laundering. Frank, who insists he’s innocent, has pleaded not guilty and is still awaiting trial. But he vowed to expose Raniere and NXIVM and began a website called The Frank Report.
KATE SNOW: You over the years wrote hundreds and hundreds of articles on your blog about NXIVM. Critical, intensely critical of Keith Raniere. Right. You became like his arch nemesis. Is that fair?
FRANK PARLATO: I think that is fair. I wrote maybe five thousand stories about him.
KATE SNOW (voice over): And then, Catherine handed him the biggest story of all.
FRANK PARLATO: She said, my daughter is in NXIVM and she has been branded. And in addition to that, she is being blackmailed because the group is holding some very compromising photographs and information about her, so that she couldn’t leave, even if she wanted to.
KATE SNOW: When you heard that, what did you think?
FRANK PARLATO: Well, my first reaction was if this is true. Keith is finished.
KATE SNOW (voice over): But with NXIVM’s history of suing its enemies, Frank knew he had to be extremely careful.
FRANK PARLATO: I contacted Sarah Edmondson and some other people to verify that this was true. Then, once I determined that it was true, I published it on the Frank report.
KATE SNOW (voice over): That was on June 5th, 2017.
FRANK PARLATO: And about 30 so-called slaves bolted from DOS because they felt now they were safe to leave because of the exposure, they wouldn’t have to be as concerned about their collateral, their blackmail material being released.
KATE SNOW: That story’s like a bomb going off inside the organization, right?
FRANK PARLATO: It cratered the cult.
KATE SNOW (voice over): But some followers, including India, remained loyal to Raniere and NXIVM.
LESTER HOLT: Coming up, will Catherine’s efforts to expose NXIVM cost her her daughter?
INDIA OXENBERG: I felt betrayed by my mother. I thought she was crazy.
KATE SNOW (voice over): In the summer of 2017, the lid was blown off the story of DOS and the branding of women within NXIVM. Until then, the vast majority of NXIVM members had no idea about the harsh requirements of the DOS sorority. Some members of DOS fled before they were branded, too, thanks to the story published in the Frank Report. But India wasn’t going anywhere.
INDIA OXENBERG: I felt defensive, because I trusted these people for years. They were who I considered my closest friends and authority.
KATE SNOW (voice over): But Frank and Catherine were on a mission and joined by actor Sara Edmondson, who had been branded.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: I reached out to law enforcement and I get stonewalled.
KATE SNOW: What did they say?
CATHERINE OXENBERG: ‘Yeah, we know about them. We’ve been following them, but there’s really nothing we can do.’
KATE SNOW: Did they say the women were there by choice?
CATHERINE OXENBERG: Yes. And actually, Sara Edmondson went into one of the field offices in person and showed them her brand. And they said,’ I’m sorry, but it sounds like it’s consensual. There’s nothing we can do.’
KATE SNOW (voice over): Four months after the Frank Report story appeared, The New York Times published a front page article. Catherine did an interview, and Sarah Edmondson came forward to show her scar from the branding. It ignited a firestorm. Robert Gavin of the Albany Times Union:
ROBERT GAVIN: It was a blockbuster when this came out. It was like, oh, my God.
KATE SNOW (voice over): A few days later, when Dateline first visited Katherine in her home in Malibu, she was clearly in agony.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: This is my last recourse. It is excruciatingly painful to expose my child like this. I had a fantasy that, when The New York Times came out that she would read it and go, ‘Wow, Mom, I want to come home.’ That’s not what happened.
KATE SNOW (voice over): Instead, India remained loyal to NXIVM. Catherine felt she had no choice but to continue her crusade in the media, even though she risked further alienating her daughter. On November 2nd, she went on the Today Show.
CATHERINE OXENBERG (on Today Show): I love her to the end of the world. And I’m only doing this to bring awareness because without awareness there can be no outrage. And unless there’s outrage, the authorities are not going to step in and do what they should do, which is shut this down and stop this from happening.
CATHERINE OXENBERG: The Today Show piece that I did was pivotal, as far as I was concerned. It was the strongest interview that I did. And I literally got the call 48 hours after the Today show.
KATE SNOW: Got which call?
CATHERINE OXENBERG: The call that I got from my lawyer saying that the FBI were moving in aggressively.
KATE SNOW (voice over): But Katherine’s effort to get India home was backfiring.
KATE SNOW: Your mom kept asking you to leave. She kept contacting you, trying to convince you.
INDIA OXENBERG: Yeah. And on television
KATE SNOW: and very publicly.
INDIA OXENBERG: Yes.
KATE SNOW: From your end, what did that feel like and what did you say to her when she was pleading with you?
INDIA OXENBERG: I mean, when she first went to the media, I was still very deeply involved in NXIVM and I felt kind of in shock at that point. I felt betrayed by my mother. I felt like she was exposing me unnecessarily. And I also thought that she was crazy.
KATE SNOW (voice over): All the publicity from Catherine’s battle helped expose more details about Raniere’s past. He grew up in a middle class family in suburban New York, and attended the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): It’s an amazing idea as well. Sometimes it even amazes me.
KATE SNOW (voice over): After college, Raniere started a business called Consumers Buy Line. The company was a multilevel marketing scheme that was sued by several states.
ROBERT GAVIN: He had been in trouble years earlier with his former business – Attorneys General who went after him.
KATE SNOW (voice over): But within a few years, he started another multilevel marketing business Executive Success Programs. Part of NXIVM, his lectures were often recorded.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): The longer deductive process is sometimes the most useful one, depending on where you want to go, how you want to be.
ROBERT GAVIN: NXIVM is where Keith Raniere becomes the Keith Raniere we now know who he is. That’s where he decides to be known as the Vanguard. And Keith Raniere was at the top of the NXIVM world. For me, I think for people who are familiar with this, we certainly weren’t surprised to hear that Keith Raniere was being accused of nefarious activity.
KATE SNOW (voice over): It turns out Vanguard wasn’t exactly who followers thought he was. Remember, he was supposed to be a world class athlete and musician with multiple degrees. None of that was true. And what about being the world’s smartest man? Well, he had a so two point six GPA in college.
RICK ALLEN ROSS: Keith Raniere was sold as this, you know, this genius with an IQ of over two hundred, someone who was revolutionary, who could change the world.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): Cult intervention expert Rick Allen Ross says if Raniere was a genius at anything, it was manipulation.
RICK ALLEN ROSS: He could determine what were the vulnerabilities of people that he had sway over, you know, who had personal issues with their family, in their workplace and then exploiting those vulnerabilities to leverage control over them.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): Control over people like India who thought Raniere was a victim.
INDIA OXENBERG: I was so indoctrinated into what they wanted me to believe we were doing, which was this great community of good people who want to grow, and this poor martyr of a man who’s being targeted by the media and the government.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): And as Catherine continued to speak out, India says NXIVM loyalist’s called her mother ‘the enemy’.
INDIA OXENBERG: ‘She’s out to get you. She’s trying to destroy us. She wants to hurt your friends’.
KATE SNOW (voice over): India says the woman who bankrolled NXIVM pushed her to turn on Catherine.
INDIA OXENBERG: Claire Bronfman wanted to discredit my mom completely. She wanted to get rid of my mom as a threat to NXIVM and to Keith, and part of that was using me as a pawn against my own mom.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): As law enforcement worked its case against NXIVM and Raniere, NXIVM’s loyalists tried to intimidate Catherine.
KATE SNOW: Did anyone from NXIVM contact you and tell you to stop?
CATHERINE OXENBERG: Yes, I got calls from what I would call their enforcers. They were called the ethics place.
KATE SNOW: And people would call you?
CATHERINE OXENBERG: Yep. and say what terrible harm I was perpetrating.
KEITH RANIERE (on tape): Catherine was frightened, but less concerned about her own safety than she was about India’s.
LESTER HOLT: Coming up, Keith Raniere takes off, triggering an international manhunt and a dramatic confrontation.
NICKI CLYNE: Some of them had balaclavas and they had machine guns and bulletproof vest.
LESTER HOLT: When Dateline continues.
[END OF PART 2]