Jeffrey Epstein is a bad man. But he’s not bad because he is a billionaire who lives large; he’s not bad because he is Jewish; and he’s not bad because of his famous friends, political buddies and philanthropic partners – although, from the breathless press reports about him over the past week, it’s hard to get past those associations.
Epstein is a bad man because he exploited underage girls – and apparently did so for a long time. He pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14 more than a decade ago, and was able to arrange a slap on the wrist deal in Miami, which landed him in jail for 13 months, during which time he was free to travel daily to and from his office.
But now, Epstein is being charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan with sex trafficking in a wide-ranging “sex pyramid scheme,” and the likely consequences will be far more severe.
The allegations against Epstein are chilling. Those charges are a direct result of a groundbreaking investigative report published by the Miami Herald last November that reopened the Epstein matter with graphic detail. The report identified more than 80 women who claim to be victims of Epstein — part of “a large, cult-like network of underage girls” whom he coerced “into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day.”
While there is plenty of grist for a salacious documentary about the Epstein story, and there will be endless finger-pointing among those previously associated with him, the important focus needs to be on the crimes with which he is charged and the serious devastation of childhood sexual abuse.
Take the case of Courtney Wild, now 31, who was allegedly abused by Epstein when she was 14. Her trauma is heartbreaking. Her life wasn’t just interrupted – it was derailed. According to the Miami Herald: “Before she met Epstein, Wild was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band and an A-student at Lake Worth Middle School. After she met Epstein, she was a stripper, a drug addict and an inmate at Gadsden Correctional Institution.”
According to Wild, “Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’
Others told similar stories of being victimized when they were children. It started with massage sessions, and then, “Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to find him more girls.”
The tragic victims are the true story here. We mourn the loss of their youth and their innocence, and pray for their recovery. But even if Epstein sits in jail for the rest of his life, there is no way these victims can recover what they lost.