Message of the Day: Human Rights

The Women Who Enabled Jeffrey Epstein, Politico Magazine, May 14, 2021


Once and a while, a piece of investigative journalism is like an epiphany. It’s so illuminating that it changes one’s perception of reality and yet it seems so obvious as reality after its experienced.

Tara Palmeri’s The Women Who Enabled Jeffrey Epstein on the cover of last Friday’s Politico Magazine is such a piece.

This is far past must reading. It must be read.

The Epstein story has been, is and will be one of the stories of the century. Until his untimely (or timely) death in a prison cell, it was widely commented on as the story about wealth and power over the powerless–that was about to reveal the extent of this rot as never before–involving the most powerful people converging in the orbit of Epstein, and the most powerless in one aspect of the worst of crimes, sexual abuse and trafficking of minors.

The sheer scope of the abuse is more than mind-boggling–Epstein would often sexually abuse a few different girls every day, as young as 14 in what has been revealed so far. And the girls were trafficked to others as well.

Palmeri chronicles how it was mostly women “who helped keep Epstein’s massive sex-trafficking operation running for more than 20 years.”

Palmeri writes “as a woman myself, I have been struck by the sheer number of women around Epstein, and many of the victims I’ve spoken with say they feel especially betrayed by those who violated the unspoken rule that women protect other women, especially minors.”

Tragically, that’s often not true. While women also sexually abuse children (and men), statistics say it is more often men doing the abusing, whether of girls or boys. But women more often physically abuse children, although a large cohort of men do too. And women are often the main enablers of child sexual abuse, from families to organizations.

Those of us who are women, survivors, or both, have often found this to be particularly painful, as Palmeri writes about feeling “especially betrayed.”

Here’s an excerpt from Palmeri’s piece:

Dozens of these women worked for Epstein, formally or informally. If you think of this group as a pyramid, at the top sits [Ghislaine] Maxwell, a longtime Epstein employee and confidante who now stands accused of recruiting minors for Epstein and sex-trafficking a 14-year-old girl, charges she denies. Below her were women Epstein employed as assistants, who allegedly scheduled and managed dozens of minors for Epstein to abuse. There were also women … who brought friends to meet Epstein and received gifts or access to his wealth.

These women aren’t household names, even for people following Epstein’s story. But his victims say they were key to grooming and deceiving them and allowing Epstein to operate with impunity. In fact, most of Epstein’s victims were introduced to him through other women, according to the 12 victims I’ve spoken with over the past year and a half, as well as dozens of allegations in court and in the media. Often, victims say, it was the women around Epstein who tried to make them feel comfortable, as if what they were experiencing was normal or harmless.

Once Epstein began to face legal scrutiny, other women made it easier for him to rehabilitate himself and reemerge with his power and social cachet largely intact. Two women served as the lead prosecutors on his case when he first faced charges, in 2006, and were closely involved in crafting his federal non-prosecution agreement, plea deal and lenient sentence. For those without deep knowledge of the case, Epstein’s short incarceration of 13 months in a county jail could be read as a signal that, whatever crime he had committed, it wasn’t that bad. After his release, a number of female socialites and professionals helped to welcome Epstein, by then a registered sex offender, back into elite circles. His abuse then continued, court documents assert.

To point this out is not to excuse any of the men or prestigious institutions—universities, banks, funds—that also helped to protect Epstein, nor is it meant to hold women to a higher standard. But as a woman myself, I have been struck by the sheer number of women around Epstein, and many of the victims I’ve spoken with say they feel especially betrayed by those who violated the unspoken rule that women protect other women, especially minors.

Palmeri’s piece is breathtaking in its scope. It covers the rich, powerful and famous woman (Ghislaine Maxwell, currently in jail awaiting trial for sex-trafficking) who ran Epstein’s trafficking operation, the assistants, recruiters, the justice system, the socialites, professionals and journalists–all who enabled the systemic abuse and trafficking.

It is also admirably nuanced:

More than three years into the #MeToo movement, the Epstein saga offers an extreme—and still evolving—example of how complex questions of responsibility can get in cases of sexual abuse. In Epstein’s world, women both were victims of a hostile environment and sometimes also reaped the benefits of their association with him, or worse. Still, exactly how Jeffrey Epstein got away with years of abuse remains an open question—one many of his victims are still working to expose. Answering it requires understanding the complicated motivations and actions of the many women around him.

And in the end it offers a clear-eyed judgment:

If Epstein’s house of cards was built by women, that means it’s also women who can reveal the true extent of his crimes. … To me, the fact that so many women know so much more, yet have stayed silent, might be the most depressing part of this story.

Truly. But as Palmeri’s piece reminds so effectively, despite all the pressure and attempts to contain the story, not even Epstein’s death has stopped it, and more continues to be revealed, by courageous people, mainly women survivors, and principled journalists like Palmeri.

As we’ve noted often, issues that we’ve avoided fully addressing as a society, such as hundreds of millions of children being sexually abused every year, and all the other issues that humanity must face to survive and deserve surviving, are going to be faced, one way or another.

Here’s the article:

“The Women Who Enabled Jeffrey Epstein”

By Tara Palmeri, 

From schedulers to socialites, they helped keep the late financier’s sex trafficking scheme operating, or helped rehabilitate him after he faced jail time. Now some say they’re victims.