Jeffery Epstein made the news again last week when his indictments on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy were made public.
The shocking allegations have left many people are wondering how the wealthy financial mogul was able to get away with his crimes for so long, and how so many powerful people (including the Clintons and President Trump) defended his character over the years.
As someone who has worked with a number of child sexual abuse victims over the years, I think it is crucial to note that just because someone seems like a ‘terrific guy’ (as Trump once described Epstein), it does not mean they can not be a predator. It is not uncommon for men to feel taken aback or even disbelieving when they hear women speak of a man who is a ‘creep’ or makes them uncomfortable, because they are not the ones on the receiving end of that predatory, frightening energy. This is why it is so crucial for women to trust their intuition and gut feelings, rather than rely upon the “Oh, but he’s a nice guy!” or “You must have misunderstood” or “He was probably joking” commentary from people who don’t know the true face of the predator.
We also need to examine why Epstein, a powerful, wealthy man with the opportunity to court countless beautiful women over the age of 18 years old, instead aggressively sought out young teens.
My opinion is that Epstein appears to be what is known as an ephebophile, an adult who is sexually attracted to adolescents, generally in the age range of 15 to 19 years old. It is possible that Epstein himself endured abuse which may have stunted his development around this specific age range, making him unable to feel sexually aroused by adult women and instead seeking out these newly pubescent minors.
This does not excuse Epstein’s behavior, but it may be one possible reason why he relentlessly sought out young girls, even after being arrested for this crime in the past.
However, we can’t deny that our society permits this male attraction to young girls, even behaving as though it is normal or unavoidable.
Our culture normalizes and even encourages the sexualization of young girls, and that is a devastating reality for young girls across the country. 1 in 10 girls say that they are “catcalled” (i.e. sexually propositioned and harassed by male strangers) before they even turn 11 years old. This isn’t an anomaly, and it is not going away.
From barely-legal porn to looking the other way when people make sexual comments about teen pop stars like Billie Eilish, we have this expectation that men can’t help themselves and it’s only natural to desire an underage girl. This culture enables predators like Epstein and disempowers victims who feel like no one will believe them or care what happened to them.
Epstein has a history of sexual abuse against young girls, with a previous case leaving him a slap on the wrist and a minor prison sentence at a cushy facility. Not only did this light sentence serve as an insult to his victims, but also to other victims of sexual abuse as well.
When female victims of male sexual violence see predators getting little to no sentences, the message is clear: Don’t report, because you won’t get any support.’ It takes incredible bravery and strength and emotional labor to pursue charges against your attacker, but when girls and women see that these predators are not punished, they realize that they may as well keep quiet. This is why only 23 percent of women who are raped by men report the crime.
What we are seeing is a society that minimizes sexual abuse and allows predators to offend again and again. Sexual abuse continues to be the dirty little secret of our society, especially when it comes to high-powered offenders like Michael Jackson or R. Kelly or Jeffery Epstein. We know the crimes are occurring, but we look the other way because the man has money and power. Until this changes, countless more children will be harmed.