British former “socialite” Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday for helping the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse and traffic underage girls.
The sentencing caps off a trial that exposed the exploitative actions of “power couple” Epstein and Maxwell as they lured and exploited dozens of young girls, some of them as young as 14.
AP News reports that U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan also imposed a $750,000 fine, and said “a very significant sentence is necessary” and that she wanted to send an “unmistakable message” that these kinds of crimes would be punished. Prosecutors had asked the judge to give her 30 to 55 years in prison, while Maxwell’s defense sought a lenient sentence of just five years.
At the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe recounted how Maxwell subjected girls to “horrifying nightmares” by taking them to Epstein.
“They were partners in crime together and they molested these kids together,” she said, calling Maxwell “a person who was indifferent to the suffering of other human beings.”
When Maxwell had a chance to speak, she said she empathized with the survivors and that it was her “greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein.” Maxwell called him “a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life,” echoing her defense attorneys’ assertions, in court filings calling for a lenient sentence, that Epstein was the true mastermind, AP News reports.
Maxwell denies abusing anyone, and she said she hoped her conviction and her “unusual incarceration” bring some “measure of peace and finality.”
In December 2021, Maxwell was convicted of:
- Conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
- Conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
- Transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
- Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors
- Sex trafficking of minors
This case has been building against Maxwell for years, with dozens of trafficking and sexual abuse survivors speaking out about her participation in Epstein’s reported child sex trafficking network.
To read the reports about Maxwell’s sentencing by AP News, click here.
A bit of review: who was Epstein, and how is he relevant to this case?
Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found dead by apparent suicide in his cell in federal custody in New York in August 2019, where he was awaiting trial just over a month after his arrest on multiple charges of sex trafficking girls as young as 14.
Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed a criminal indictment in July of 2019 charging billionaire Jeffrey Epstein with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, allegations that have circulated around the businessman for years, reports CNN.
According to that indictment, between 2002 and 2005, 66-year-old Epstein ran a trafficking enterprise alongside Maxwell in which he paid hundreds of dollars in cash to rape girls as young as 14 at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, worked with employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences, and paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.
“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis,” Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement at the time of his arrest in July 2019.
Epstein had been jailed since early July, when he pleaded not guilty to charges by New York federal prosecutors after an indictment accused him of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls.
News of Epstein’s death came a day after hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed in New York federal court, alleging new details of sexual abuse claims against Epstein and several associates.
Debunking child sex trafficking myths to fight this global issue
The FBI has reported an increase in sex trafficking crimes in recent years.
In fact, during the fiscal year 2020 alone, the FBI opened 664 human trafficking investigations across the U.S. and arrest 473 human traffickers. As of November 2020, the agency still had 1,800 open trafficking investigations—including child sex trafficking cases.
So how can we help make a dent on such a complex, devastating, and growing global issue?
Learning about how trafficking really happens can help put conspiracies and myths to rest and help society see how child trafficking usually happens.
For example, one common misconception is that children are kidnapped by strangers. However, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children—a global organization that’s aided the investigation and recovery of thousands of missing kids—reports just the opposite.
According to NCMEC, less than 1% of missing children cases reported in the US in 2020 were non-family abductions. In fact, in a recent Virginia operation where NCMEC helped recover 27 missing children, none of the cases involved a child getting abducted by someone they didn’t know.
The Polaris Project is another excellent resource for learning about other common child sex trafficking myths.
Understanding the realities of what child trafficking is, how it happens, and who is involved is vital when it comes to recovering victims, preventing these crimes, and reporting suspicious behavior when you notice it.
Porn’s role in child sex trafficking
Truly seeing the issue of child sex trafficking includes not turning a blind eye to the role pornography plays in sex trafficking and exploitation.
From normalizing abuse and sexualizing children to being used as a tool to groom victims, research and survivor accounts show that porn is interwoven in virtually every facet of sex trafficking, and vice versa.
While child sex trafficking is a complex issue, the role porn plays in it is undeniable. What many consumers view as a passive, private act can actually contribute to the exploitation of real people—even real kids.
It’s a harsh reality, but a reality still the same. And when you refuse to click, you can help stop the demand for sexual exploitation.
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