Why don’t the media and courts treat Ghislaine Maxwell like an independent woman with agency?
I didn’t know if I wanted to write about a tawdry subject, but I keep seeing Maxwell treated as an accomplice only when she sounds like a willing participant doing horrible things herself.
[EDIT: I wrote this piece a day or two ago, then put it in the trash folder, but the articles keep continuing the pattern: not treating Maxwell as a full human. The timing may be off relative to the publish date and I’ll add a couple new examples at the end.]
Nothing below implies Epstein himself was any less responsible or his actions any less traumatizing or disgusting. But do his actions remove responsibility for another person acting of her own choice?
The New York Times wrote two days ago, “Prosecutors say Ms. Maxwell, 59, helped to recruit and groom teenage girls for sexual abuse by Mr. Epstein, the notorious sex offender and financier who was her longtime companion.”
Note: “helped recruit and groom.”
A CNN opinion piece wrote “Maxwell, the longtime friend and companion of mysterious millionaire and alleged sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, is on trial for what prosecutors say was her role in a sex-trafficking operation, recruiting underage girls for exploitation by Epstein.” Then “The women who have accused Epstein of sex crimes made clear that he was not acting alone; they say Maxwell had a clear hand in the operation”
Note “for exploitation by Epstein” and “had a hand in the operation”, not exploited them herself or operated the operation on her own.
The Guardian wrote yesterday, “Prosecutors charge that Maxwell procured teen girls between 1994 and 2004 for Epstein, who sexually abused them. She is accused of sometimes being present for, and sometimes participating, in this abuse.”
ABC wrote, “a woman who has accused notorious serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault, opened up on “The View” on Tuesday about how Ghislaine Maxwell, Epsteinâ€™s longtime companion, allegedly aided in her abuse.”
Note: “allegedly aided”, not “allegedly abused”.
The Guardian wrote today, “Maxwell â€œpreyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abusedâ€ by Epstein, prosecutors said. Maxwell denies all of the sex-trafficking charges against her.”
Note: “for Epstein” and “abused by Epstein” but only “sometimes participating in this abuse”, not that she did things herself.
Why would we consider her anything but a strong, independent woman with her own agency? She sounds like she was participating fully for her own reasons under her own volition. Why charge her with only trafficking. Just because Epstein did more, she wasn’t his tool. She was a sane adult.
The Times description of the testimony describes more than trafficking: “The 14-year-old girl was removing her clothing in the master bathroom of Jeffrey Epsteinâ€™s Palm Beach, Fla., home, preparing to give him a massage, she said, when Ghislaine Maxwell entered the room and touched her breasts, hips and buttocks. Ms. Maxwell told the teenager she had â€œa great body for Mr. Epstein and his friends,â€ the girl â€” now a woman in her 30s â€” told a jury Tuesday in Ms. Maxwellâ€™s sex-trafficking trial.”
Why treat her as less responsible?
EDIT: following the edit at the top, here are a couple more stories that continued minimizing this woman’s agency:
The Washington Post wrote “Maxwell, 59, Epsteinâ€™s longtime companion, is accused of helping him recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage victims.” The sentence just before that one said an accuser said Maxwell “groped and fondled her when she was a teen”.
The Wall Street Journal in Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell? Jeffrey Epsteinâ€™s Alleged Accomplice on Trial for Sex Trafficking, wrote “Ms. Maxwell played a â€œcritical roleâ€ in finding and grooming victims, and sometimes participated in the sexual abuse, Ms. Strauss said at the time”, probably quoting someone that the Guardian did too. If she “sometimes” participated in it, she did it. Why hold back from alleging she actually abused?
ANOTHER EDIT: Yet another story, Itâ€™s tough to see Ghislaine Maxwellâ€™s team toy with such sad, broken women, deflects responsibility from Maxwell to her lawyer, who grills the women testifying against her. That lawyer works for Maxwell. He’s doing it for her under her instruction, but to read the article, which talks about pity for Maxwell, you might think he was her boss. Why don’t people consider her the equal of him and Epstein?
YET ANOTHER: The Washington Post in Ghislaine Maxwellâ€™s trial resumes Thursday. A key question: Are enablers criminally liable?, calls her an enabler: “The role of enablers has gone relatively unexamined in courtrooms. . .”. The sentence before that one quotes testimony: â€œShe is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women.” Why present her only in relation to Epstein? Why not presume she’s an adult acting on her own? Why disbelieve the witnesses?
December 29 EDIT: The jury found her guilty of five charges. Again, the Times headline calls her guilty of aiding Epstein: Ghislaine Maxwell Is Found Guilty of Aiding in Epsteinâ€™s Sex Abuse. I’ll let you click to read more of the pattern. I saw more treating her not as an independent woman with agency and power, but through her relationship to him, as if he made her decisions for her. How is assaulting minors just “aiding” him?
A piece partly countering the trend: Ghislaine Maxwell more evil than Epstein, says Virginia Giuffre. It says: “Ghislaine Maxwellâ€™s crimes were even worse than those of the sexual predator for whom she trafficked girls because she used her ability to gain the girlsâ€™ confidence to drag them into a world of abuse, an alleged victim has said. Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked by Maxwellâ€™s boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, but who did not give testimony in the case that concluded on Wednesday, said Maxwell and Epstein had taken a part of her childhood that she could never get back.”
It quotes Giuffre: “She called Maxwell the â€œdevilâ€™s righthand manâ€, adding: â€œSheâ€™s definitely worse than Epstein. She used that charm, that wit, that smile to come off as somebody you want to trust â€¦ Sheâ€™s worse to me, more evil than Epstein. What Ghislaine did to so many of us, itâ€™s unforgivable.â€”
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