Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking scheme that entrapped dozens of teenage girls is disgusting. But let’s be honest: this is just another example of a poisoned culture that protects adults over child well-being. This isn’t news—it’s a call to action against a toxic culture for children.
One person alone could not have accomplished the full scope of Epstein’s scheme. You need help to successfully abuse dozens and hundreds of children, and everyone needs to pitch in to make it a success.
Epstein had it all.
First, he worked with people who looked the other way. When his career started, Epstein taught at the highly regarded Dalton School, where he left strong clues that there is something not quite right about the way he deals with girls. He later had employees cooperate by scheduling victims to be when and where he wanted them, according to the federal indictment recently unsealed in New York.
Second, he had willing pilots for a plane dubbed the “Lolita Express.” I guess they never read the book?
Third, he had powerful buddies to partake in his jetset, party lifestyle in Palm Beach, New York, a private Caribbean island, and his other homes. It is simply a fact that Presidents (Trump and Clinton), were in the mix along with Britain’s Prince Andrew, former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and many others. Even when people knew he was a registered sex offender, following his release from prison, he was welcomed back to high society with open arms, and that includes women as well as men, conservatives and liberals alike. Even journalists accepted his hospitality like Katie Couric and George Stephanopoulos, and universities eagerly welcomed his philanthropy. Yet, it appears that no one sought out his victims to unravel this story until Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie Brown doggedly pursued it.
Fourth, he had to enforce secrecy from those around him by whatever means possible. Religious entities do this with their rules against scandal. Men in his position often secure nondisclosure agreements from their employees, as did Epstein. Perpetrators with resources are also fond of hush money. Look at R. Kelly. Likewise, Epstein has now been accused of trying to buy secrecy by wiring $350,000 to silence potential witnesses.
Fifth, he needed a steady supply of children to victimize. Now, this can take some imagination on the pedophile’s part, but this culture has generated some great systems just to make that happen. Who can forget the Catholic Church’s move-the-pedophile-priest-from-parish-to-parish model? Or Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky who ran summer football camps for kids, volunteered at local high schools, and most imaginatively, created his own nonprofit charity, Second Mile, tailored to produce just the underprivileged young boys he sought. Look at the steady supply of gymnastic victims moving through USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, gyms, and the Karolyi Ranch, all landing in Dr. Larry Nassar’s many examination rooms. Then there is R. Kelly and his entourage recruiting girls at his concerts.
Epstein did not disappoint on this score: he paid poor, local girls hundreds for massages that turned into sex assault and, then, with more dollars, he turned them into suppliers of other girls. Genius.
Then there was the pesky law element and, again, our culture shored up his efforts.
Fifth, Epstein needed top-flight, politically powerful lawyers when the reports started to flow to law enforcement. What a distinguished team he had against the state and federal charges in Florida: Kenneth Starr, Jay Lefkowitz, and Alan Dershowitz. They were so good that they persuaded the federal prosecutor in Florida to give him a slap on the wrist compared to the enormity of his crimes.
Sixth, absolutely essential to Epstein’s winning strategy were willing prosecutors to let him off easy. Florida state and local authorities did not press charges, and Virgin Islands authorities did nothing despite his island being nicknamed “Pedophile Island.”
Then there was federal prosecutor, Alex Acosta, who, instead of saving the day, essentially collaborated with Epstein’s fancy lawyers. Not only did this group have a meeting of the minds to reduce the charges so that his jail time was de minimis, but they also granted him prison conditions that included a limousine and working in his office during the day, and agreed to help him keep his secrets. Part of the deal required them not to tell the victims about the plea deal (in violation of federal law as a court recently ruled) and to keep the public in the dark, as Julie Brown’s tremendous reporting in the Miami Herald showed. Secrecy is a pedophile’s best friend.
In a twist you can’t make up, Acosta was selected to head, yes, the Department of Labor, which oversees human trafficking. I called for Acosta’s removal December 2018 shortly after the details of this lopsided plea deal became public, but he held onto his job for another seven months, only resigning last week when the drumbeat of disapproval became deafening. Despite the ugliness of what Acosta let continue largely unchecked (along with all the other prosecutors who took a backseat), President Donald Trump wasn’t about to fire him. What kind of country is this when the President of the United States does not demand the resignation of someone who, in retrospect, is responsible for the sexual abuse of dozens of children? It is a country that protects adult privilege while trivializing child suffering.
There Is Nothing New About Adults Who Could Stop Child Rape But Fail to Do So
Children are radically vulnerable, literally powerless. For too long, adults in every walk of life have stood by while they are used. Employees, friends, family, and many others cooperate in a national scheme that has sacrificed too many children to the altar of adult power, privilege, and ego. That is as true in the case of Epstein as it is in the darkest frontier for kids being sexually abused, the family.
My friends, this is not new. It’s the same old story with different names. It’s time to stop it, and one tried and true means to that end is to empower the victims with legal tools that force the truth into the open, unmask and punish the perpetrators and enablers, and shift the costs to the ones who caused it: remove the unfairly short statutes of limitations. Like child sex abuse laws, in many states, child sex trafficking laws need a dose of statute of limitations reform as you can see here.
At the same time, all of us need to come to terms with the prevalence of child sex abuse and trafficking. It’s common. It’s right under our noses. The cry of the victims streaming into the public square is: “how could you have let this happen?” We are all responsible.