Ghislaine Maxwell’s crimes were even worse than those of the sexual predator for whom she trafficked girls because she used her ability to gain the girls’ confidence to drag them into a world of abuse, an alleged victim has said.
Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked by Maxwell's former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, but who did not give testimony in Maxwell's trial in a Manhattan court that concluded on Wednesday, said Maxwell and Epstein had taken a part of her childhood that she could never get back.
“I have been dreaming of this day for the last 10 years, not knowing that it was going to come,” she told New York magazine’s The Cut following the trial outcome on Wednesday. “It’s a bittersweet emotion because I have been fighting for so long.”
Maxwell was convicted on sex trafficking charges that carry a total prison sentence of as long as 65 years. Epstein, the convicted child abuser on whose behalf she acted, took his own life in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on allegations of sexual offences against hundreds of girls.
Ms Giuffre said part of the pattern of the abuse perpetrated by Epstein and Maxwell was the mix of charm and power they could wield. Epstein had powerful friends – such as Prince Andrew, whom she also accuses of sex abuse – and could convince girls he “owned” the local police department, she said. But Maxwell was capable of exploiting their weaknesses to draw them in.
She said Maxwell gained her confidence by promising to help her achieve her dream of becoming a massage therapist if she came to work for Epstein. Instead, she said, it was the start of her ordeal at his hands.
She told The Cut that Maxwell used her “womanly abilities to make me feel comfortable”, adding: “The deceit hurts even more because I fell naively into her trap. I mean, she is poised. She looks sophisticated. She didn’t raise any hairs on the back of my head.”
Ms Giuffre said Maxwell had seen her reading a book about massage therapy and, armed with that knowledge, was able to gain her confidence.
“The thing about predators is they seek the vulnerable, find out what they want, and promise them a dream. That’s how they work. Cages and chains come in all different shapes and sizes. I wasn’t tied to a radiator or anything, like you’ve seen in movies. My shackles were Epstein and Ghislaine’s wealth and the powerful people they knew.”
Ms Giuffre called Maxwell the “devil’s right-hand man”, adding: “She’s definitely worse than Epstein. She used that charm, that wit, that smile to come off as somebody you want to trust . . . She’s worse to me, more evil than Epstein. What Ghislaine did to so many of us, it’s unforgivable.”
Wednesday’s guilty verdicts showed that “no matter how rich or how connected you are, you can still be held accountable”, she said.
A lawyer representing 20 people who have accused Epstein and Maxwell said the verdicts were a warning to sexual predators that their crimes would be punished.
“This does send a message to other sex predators and those who would conspire to sex-traffic underage girls to them that this will be taken very seriously, charges may be filed against you, you may be prosecuted and you may end up getting sentenced to prison for the rest of your life, as may be the case with Miss Maxwell,” Gloria Allred told BBC Breakfast on Thursday.
“Beware and do not conspire with or become a sexual predator yourself, because underage girls are very vulnerable. They are easy to take advantage of and it is taken very seriously when they are preyed upon by adults who do know better.”
Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, is facing a civil lawsuit brought by Ms Giuffre in the US over claims – which he vehemently denies – that he had sex with her when she had been sexually trafficked by Epstein as a 17-year-old. Ms Allred said it was now a matter of having to “wait and see” whether the case gets to trial.
Lisa Bloom, a US lawyer who represents several survivors of Epstein, said Andrew should be "quaking in his boots" after Wednesday's verdicts. She told Mail Online: "Because this shows that a jury is willing to come back with a guilty verdict even if the accusers are not perfect, as no human being is. Even if there were grounds for cross-examination, which there were, they looked to the essence of the story and they found that Ghislaine Maxwell was guilty of sex trafficking."
Another accuser of Epstein and Maxwell has said the pair were “very hard to say no to”, as she said the verdicts from the New York court show the British socialite was “equally complicit” in the disgraced financier’s crimes.
Liz Stein, who was not one of those involved in the judgments handed down on Wednesday, told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme she had been sexually assaulted by Epstein and Maxwell on multiple occasions over three years. And she added: "I felt like every time I tried to get away, they found me."
Ms Stein said she had been working on New York’s Fifth Avenue as an intern at a well-known retailer in 1994 when she assisted Maxwell and later offered to deliver her shopping to her hotel. She said it was in the hotel bar that Maxwell introduced her to Epstein.
“So I met Epstein that evening and that was the first time they assaulted me,” she said. “What happened to me that night with them really shook me.
“And the way I got away from them that first night was because Ghislaine knew that my boyfriend was coming in from out of town to meet me, and the way that I got out of that hotel room was by telling them that, if I didn’t show up for him, he would know that there was something wrong.”
She added: “It was very hard to say no to them, and it wasn’t like they came up to you and said, ‘We want to sexually assault you.’”
She said: “I felt like every time I tried to get away, they found me. I moved several times and they found me. I absolutely should have gone to the police, I didn’t feel like I could. I just can’t explain to you the fear and the emotional manipulation.”
Ms Stein, who alleges she was assaulted by both Epstein and Maxwell, said: “If I never met Ghislaine Maxwell, I would have never met Jeffrey Epstein. Absolutely.”
Ms Stein’s allegations were not included in Maxwell’s trial, which saw Maxwell convicted of five of six counts. But she had attended court on some days of the trial, and has been following the case. She said sitting in the courtroom at first felt “uneasy” but then it “felt extraordinarily validating to be in the same room with her after all of these years and to not have that fear any more”.
On the verdicts, she said: “I think that this is something that so many of us didn’t think would ever happen, and especially for a woman to be charged with these things.
“I hope that this really sets a precedent and it shows people that she was equally complicit in doing these things.”
Maxwell will appeal against her conviction, her brother Kevin has said. – Guardian/PA