Ever since Jeffrey Epstein’s untimely and unjust death in August 2019, survivors, advocates, and many others have been asking an important question regarding those who participated in the sexual abuse and exploitation perpetrated by Epstein:
Will justice be served?
Due to Epstein’s connections with a vast web of wealthy and influential individuals, many have worried that those involved in suspected crimes would not be pursued after his death.
We are glad to see that justice is still being pursued.
Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s confidante and accomplice, was arrested on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Since she was directly involved in Epstein’s affairs, this is an important development for survivors and seems to indicate that justice may yet be served to the individuals involved in these abuses despite Epstein’s death.
What Filthy Rich Got Right, Wrong About Jeffrey Epstein and His Crimes
Recently, the Netflix documentary Filthy Rich rocketed to the top of Netflix’s charts. We anticipated this with great excitement due to the fact that, although they did not get their day in court with Epstein himself, survivors would be able to share their stories and speak publicly.
The documentary portrayed and reinforced several important points: the wealth of evidence of Epstein’s trafficking and rape crimes, the fact that many men with financial means perpetrate and get away with a lot of sex crimes, and the failure of systems that should have prevented these crimes and punished perpetrators. Importantly, victim-survivors were given a platform to speak out and share their stories.
However, Filthy Rich missed some important pieces as well. Not all offenders of sexual crimes and abuse are prominent or wealthy. Nude images of victims, likely young girls, were shown in the film. The stories shared by victim-survivors included prurient details of their abuse and exploitation and, by doing so, they may have been re-traumatized by those trying to help them tell their story.
Despite its shortcomings, however, the documentary made a meaningful attempt at centering survivor voices. When these realities are recounted from survivors’ perspectives, that is meaningful and empowering. Especially in cases where perpetrators were/are wealthy and have held outsized power in exploitative scenarios, it is necessary to make space for victims to be heard.
The Death of Jeffrey Epstein Was Not the End of the Story
While we must be survivor-centered, we also need to be offender-focused.
This means that, in order to support the survivors’ struggle for justice, we must call out all the collaborators. This includes those who participated in abuse, those who facilitated it, and the legal system that failed to act on the overwhelming evidence presented. Effectively combating sex trafficking means understanding and ending demand for commercial sex.
Filthy Rich made a foray into this territory by questioning the lack of action by prosecutors and examining the generous deal that Epstein received. However, in the end, it was an unsatisfactory exploration that fell short of meaningful investigation. Discovering that Epstein’s original deal included immunity even for unnamed collaborators made it seem as though the deal was designed by collaborators for collaborators—this thread must not go unfollowed.
Police, probation officers, corrections officers, the US Attorneys’ office, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, as well as participants, neighbors, observers, staff, and countless unnamed others permitted these abuses to happen again and again. It was a tragedy of failed systems of accountability. A change in the culture and systems that permitted this must include a deep examination of the myriad personal and systemic failures that have occurred.
Thankfully, we believe Filthy Rich was just a start. Over time, as more investigation uncovers the depth and breadth of Epstein’s web of exploitation, we believe that other perpetrators will have to face justice. Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest reminds and gives us hope that justice is coming for victim-survivors.
“There are others who facilitated or participated in his web of sexual exploitation who must still be brought to justice,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE.
By arresting Maxwell and continuing to look into this case, some measure of justice can be recovered for survivors. We hope that the truth about predators who remain unidentified or shielded by power and influence will fully come to light and that restorative justice will come to fruition.
You can read Ghislaine Maxwell’s full indictment here.