Is Ghislaine Maxwell a Sex Trafficker?

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by Andrea Powell, Karana Rising

On July 2nd, Ghislaine Maxwell, ex-girlfriend and business partner to Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in New Hampshire. She has been called his alleged accomplice, associate, business partner and associate. What she really should be called is alleged sex trafficker. So, why does the indictment not include that charge?

Maxwell is charged with the “conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.” The indictment includes that Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18.”

Under “The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)”, sex trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Sex trafficking is a triangle of evil. There is the trafficker, the buyers, and the victims. The business is effectively serial rape for profit.

Just the mere fact that some of Epstein and Maxwell’s victims were minors means that they don’t have to prove that they were forced, coerced or frauded into having sex in exchange for something of value in order to be considered a victim of sex trafficking. However, they were.

Traffickers have specific tactics. Grooming is a form of recruitment, it’s only one of the elements in the definition of sex trafficking. Another tactic traffickers use is getting their girlfriend (in some cases these women are referred to as Bottoms) to do some of their dirty work for them. Epstein might have been wealthy but he’s no different from your average trafficker. Grooming, as Maxwell is accused of, involves learning a victims weaknesses and then exploiting them for profit.

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Many of Epstein and Maxwell’s young teen victims were struggling financially, dealing with depression and otherwise at risk. They had dreams of a better life ranging from modeling to having a father figure. Taking these young girls shopping, listening to them and acting like a big sister were Maxwell’s grooming tactics.

Once Maxwell had obtained (another action as part of the definition of sex trafficking) her young victims, she would then transport (again, a part of the definition of sex trafficking) them to Epstein where she would induce (again, definition of sex trafficking) them into engaging in sex for the purpose of pleasing her boyfriend or boss, depending on what the truth is there. Maxwell is even accused of being present while Epstein sexually assaulted the minor girls thus hoping to use their prior relationship to make them feel that what was happening was normal.

Maxwell and Epstein both would use elements of “force, fraud, and coercion” to control their victims. The indictment reads victims were told Epstein would pay for their travel, education or careers. Once they were indebted to him, he would then have further control. Debt bondage is also an element of human trafficking.

Maxwell herself is accused by survivors who were as young as 14 of giving them to older wealthy business men who would then rape them. Looking at the photos of these victims, some in braces, at the time they were being exploited and assaulted, it is hard to believe anyone would think they were consenting adults.

These wealthy men are also a part of the sex trafficking triangle that Epstein and Maxwell created. They should also be held legally and potentially civilly accountable. Maxwell is the key to making that happen. So far, all she has done is lie, hide and reject survivors’ claims of being given to Epstein and his associates for the purposes of sexual assault.

For decades, survivors of Epstein and Maxwell’s violent crimes have suffered trauma and long-lasting effects, including death by suicide. Many have come forward and used their full names in order to fight for justice. That means exposing themselves, reliving their trauma and even putting themselves and their families at risk. Meanwhile, Epstein, Maxwell and the wealthy men they gave these teen girls to for sex deny, hide and thwart justice.

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Jeffrey Epstein killed himself last August after being arrested, thus denying these women the chance to see justice against him finally take place. It took almost a year for the FBI to find Ghislaine Maxwell, At least one of the accused wealthy men, Prince Andrew, denies raping then 17 year old Virginia Giuffre. Many more powerful men are accused by survivors of sexually assaulting them or at least being there as other men did. They too continue to hide and deflect. So, survivors remain strong and those who exploited and sexually assaulted them for their own personal profit and pleasure are the weak ones.

So what did Maxwell get out of all her abuse and exploitation of these teenage girls? Who knows but now the FBI will finally get to ask. I hope that leads to the justice denied far too long for the survivors who have been the bravest in this entire trafficking situation that spanned continents and ruined lives.

Support survivors at Karana Rising here.

Check out our series, Surviving Now and watch survivors speak to whether Ghislaine Maxwell is a sex trafficker.

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Karana Rising is by survivors, for survivors. Our team leads innovative labs in wellness, design, advocacy & education to support survivors of human trafficking

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