NIEZGODA: Ghislaine Maxwell trial must create expansive accountability

NIEZGODA%3A+Ghislaine+Maxwell+trial+must+create+expansive+accountability

In July 2019, Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender and former New York financier, was found dead in his jail cell. In December 2021, Ghislaine Maxwell, former romantic partner to Epstein, was found guilty of five out of six counts of sex trafficking charges. This is a tremendous victory for the victims of Epstein and Maxwell, as some justice has been served. However, this does not mean the case is fully resolved.

After Epstein and Maxwell’s meeting in 1992, the two allegedly began their abuse by recruiting young girls with promises of wealth, status or opportunities. These instances took place in many of Epstein’s properties, such as New York, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Palm Beach, Epstein and Maxwell would recruit young, disadvantaged girls in the early 2000s, before authorities got involved in 2005. Almost all the individuals told the same story that Maxwell would greet the girls then bring them upstairs to Epstein, where the girls were then told to strip and massage Epstein.

One of the pieces of evidence shown at the Maxwell trial was Jeffrey Epstein’s black book,” an address book containing numerous names of girls that Epstein “employed” as well as public figures Epstein and Maxwell associated themselves with. Court ruling determined that these names would not be publicized.

Differentiating between the victims and Epstein’s and Maxwell’s connections is a crucial part of Maxwell’s trial, as to not override the rules of justice and focus on the victims. Yet, this book and their elite connections must be investigated further by the FBI.

Since Jeffrey Epstein’s death, radicalized groups like QAnon have flocked to the internet to dream up conspiracy theories that America is run by a pedophilic corporate elite. While many of these theories can be dismissed, it is hard to ignore the influence and power that money brings.

In the era of #MeToo, an online movement that brought light to the harassment women experience, many of the victims of sexual exploitation point to the power that their alleged abuser had. In cases like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, their power allowed them to say and do whatever they pleased because they had influence through their fame and wealth.

This happens to be the case with Epstein and Maxwell as well. In 2009, Epstein was able to obtain special treatment, such as generous work release from jail, after he was convicted of perpetrating sex crimes, theorized due to his generous donations to the Palm Beach Police Department. This special treatment to those who have immense power and influence cannot continue.

In many of the testimonies from the alleged victims in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” it is noted that it was not just Epstein, but Maxwell and other famous figures such as Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz, who sexually abused young girls on various trips to Epstein’s private island, Little St. James, and party cities such as St. Tropez. In 2009, Epstein also was promised immunity for his “co-conspirators.”

Children around the world suffering due to commercial sexual exploitation is not just a criminal issue. It is a societal one.

Sex trafficking is characterized by the FBI as a type of human trafficking where an individual is compelled by force, fraud or coercion to engage in commercial sex acts.

According to the Liberate Children Foundation, an organization driven to end child trafficking in the United States, children are four times more likely to be trafficked for sex than adults are. In Wisconsin, the average age to be trafficked is 11-13 years old.

Milwaukee is a growing hub of sex trafficking for its geographical location and the fact that it is embedded within our community, as many who are sex trafficked do not realize that they experiencing trafficking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that experiencing childhood sexual abuse creates an adverse childhood experience, meaning that it will affect a child in long and short-term consequences, such as physical and mental trauma. 

These instances of sex trafficking are rape and sexual assault. To prosecute rape, it must be brought to authorities and put through the justice system. Only 23% of sexual assaults are reported to the police and rape trials result in conviction 35% of the time.

The abuse has gone on for long enough and the rest of the case must be brought to light. With Maxwell’s sentencing date set for June 2022 and a burgeoning new case for accused Prince Andrew, it appears that justice has already begun.

However, there is a long road still to bring justice to the victims of child sex trafficking. Wealth and influence must not allow criminals to go undetected and unnoticed. Justice must be served equally.

This story was written by Laura Niezgoda. She can be reached at laura.niezgoda@marquette.edu