Ghislaine Maxwell, R Kelly, and the Wealthy Not Being Held Nearly Accountable Enough

Warning: This article deals with the topic of sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. 

It’s happened. As of July 29, Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to jail for 20 years because she helped Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenagers. According to the ABC, some of her victims have commented on the situation. Sarah Ransome said, while standing outside of the courthouse, “This is for the girls that didn’t have… their say, the ones that weren’t here, and sadly, the ones that are still not with us.”

Another one of Maxwell’s victims named Elizabeth Stein was also glad that she wasn’t walking away scot-free. Stein noted, “I felt a sense of calm come up over me that I haven’t felt in almost three decades, and I kept reminding myself that she was in front of me in shackles being sentenced and Sarah and I were sitting there together free.”

However, Annie Farmer, a woman who was also sexually abused by Epstein, did acknowledge the historic news, she also stated that this isn’t where the cultural conversation stops. She said, “There’s still a lot of work to be done on this issue, but in this fight, we need to celebrate the victories, and today this is a big victory.” 

So, now that a bit of time has passed since Maxwell’s verdict, what work was Farmer referring to? Well, there’s an overwhelming amount of it, so it’ll be wiser to focus down on specific topics. And the issue I’d like to discuss today is the fact that there are rich, powerful people out there that will most likely not have their day in court. 

Take for instance Prince Andrew. In 2019, Virginia Giuffre went on the BBC and claimed that this close friend of Epstein had raped her when she was 17 years old. She asserted that this happened during 2001, in London, under Maxwell’s instructions, and because she was sex-trafficked there by Epstein himself. As per Nine News, Giuffre said that she was sexually assaulted by Prince Andrew on two other occasions. Prince Andrew has never stood on trial for these alleged crimes.

Related: The Trial of Ghislaine Maxwell

Related: Depp V Heard: What This Verdict Means For Our Culture

But let’s put a pin in the Prince Andrew and Maxwell situation. Because there are other uber-wealthy people who haven’t gone to court for allegedly committing sex crimes. One of these individuals is Elon Musk. On May 22, Insider reported that a SpaceX flight attendant had claimed that Elon Musk once exposed his genitals to her, touched her, and propositioned her for sex.

A friend of the SpaceX flight attendant also told this publication that after Musk’s sexual attacked was rejected, this situation wasn’t resolved. This friend stated, “She started to feel as if she was receiving some sort of retaliation where her shifts were cut back, and she was starting to feel really stressed.”

Both of these powerful individuals denied these allegations. Prince Andrews did so in a sweaty interview with the BBC, where he also claimed he didn’t sweat during the year 2001. Musk told Insiders that their story was a “politically motivated hit piece.”

Moreover, Prince Andrews financially settled with Giuffre for an undisclosed figure. This agreement meant that Giuffre couldn’t take this member of the royal family to court. The ABC outlined that the amount that they settled for is believed to be $22.6 million. It’s also worth noting Musk and SpaceX paid the flight attendant USD $250,000 if she didn’t try suing them and if she signed a nondisclosure agreement.

Now, you might think that financially settling with someone is the same thing as justice being served. But if you believe this, let me pose you with a hypothetical. Would you rather:

  1. Fight one of the world’s most powerful people in court, be dragged through a media gauntlet, relive traumatic events over and over again in front of the public, and potentially lose everything.
  2. Settle for more money than most people make in a lifetime. Secure your safety and security during a cost of living crisis that could crush you. Find a way to live with the fact that the person that sexually assaulted you gets basically no punishment for their crimes. Know that they’re paying you a tiny fraction of their wealth in exchange for your silence. 

However, while Prince Andrews and Musk might never be formally interrogated for their alleged crimes, there is hope that things are changing. For it’s not just Maxwell that’s gone to prison for being a sex offender. On July 30, The Guardian stated that the famous singer R Kelly was been sentenced for 30 years for sexually assaulting a lot of teenagers and women. In the sentencing memo, the prosecutor wrote, “His actions were brazen, manipulative, controlling and coercive. He has shown no remorse or respect for the law.” 

Now, R Kelly isn’t a prince or the wealthiest person on the planet, but he is rich, famous, and powerful. Between his sentencing and Maxwell’s, we can only keep hoping and fighting for an earth where the wealthy can’t just hide behind their money. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources.

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