Reclaiming her narrative is just part of India’s extensive healing journey. She’s also transformed herself physically—rediscovering her love of food after years spent on DOS’s starvation diets, and taking up boxing. “I’ve gotten strong! I actually have full-on muscles that I’m really proud of,” India said, flexing. “There’s something about boxing that turns off your mind and just allows you to trust your body…. And I need that. I needed to regain that trust with my body and my thoughts. And I also wanted to get strong again—to feel physically capable of protecting myself.”
Rather than working with a plastic surgeon to partially remove her brand—a process that would have taken a year, and wouldn’t have restored her skin pigmentation anyway—India went a different route.
“I designed a tattoo around the brand,” she explained. “It’s this mandala-type shape and an evil eye pointing outward. Around, it says en quora en para, which means ‘still learning.’ For me, it’s about reclaiming that part of my body so I didn’t have to look at myself naked and see Keith’s initials. I see something that I want, that I’ve placed on myself.”
During quarantine, India wrote a book about her experiences that she also titled Still Learning—which will make its way to Audible soon. Seduced, which premieres on October 18, will be airing on Starz through another important milestone: Raniere’s October 27 sentencing, where India plans to deliver a statement in the same courtroom as her abuser. “I want to have that last moment of me saying my piece to him there in the room,” India said. “I’m scared to do it, but I feel like I need it.”
The only appropriate punishment, in India’s mind, is life in prison. “I don’t think that he is able to repair himself. I think he is somebody who is a danger in society. And if he is let out, I believe that he’ll do exactly the same thing that he’s always done.”
India is a delight in Zoom form—articulate, emotionally intelligent, relatable, affectionate—and the first to joke about her past life. Asked if she considered online dating post-NXIVM, she deadpanned, “If anyone had Googled me at the time, they would have swiped the other direction: ‘No, thank you.’” Her sense of humor, too, has helped her heal. “In order to be okay with this type of thing, you have to have a certain sense of humor,” she said, “or else it’s just going to bury you.”
India also spoke candidly about working through the intimacy issues that still plague her post-NXIVM. During her years in DOS, India said she felt detached from her feelings, thoughts, and desires. “I thought I was totally asexual, when really I was just being abused and didn’t feel any feelings of sexuality or interest towards men or women. I had to rebuild that.” After NXIVM, said India, “I had a few hookups with guys just to kind of test it out.”
India resisted dating for a while before meeting a sous-chef named Patrick in New York when she was managing a different restaurant. “At the time, I was trying to avoid men entirely,” India said, cracking another joke. “Men had disappointed me severely…so I pushed him off quite a bit.”
India softened to Patrick’s advances when she realized he wanted to get to know the real her—not the character he had read about in the news.
“He was aware of the story and aware of me, but he never really brought it up,” India said. “Anytime he asked me questions, it was without judgment. He wanted to know from me, the source…and I so appreciated that and needed that. Because before, I just felt like everyone was interacting with me like ‘cult girl,’ and not like India.”
India is still learning to navigate her relationship with Patrick, who is now her fiancé, as residual NXIVM issues crop up—random floods of repressed memories, or intimacy roadblocks. “I still find myself being resistant to certain things—even with my fiancé, who I feel totally safe with,” said India. “I don’t want him to look at me in certain places or things like that. I’m like, Why do I still have this hang up? But that’s because of what I experienced. I know that consciously, but it’s not fun to have those residual issues.”