In a recent interview with Glamour, five of the women who have come forward to accuse Jefferey Epstein and his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell of sex trafficking and rape, among other crimes, say they’re tired of the labels, like “sex slave,” used to describe what they went through.
Sarah Ransome says she was 22 and trying for a job in the fashion world when Epstein allegedly invited her to vacation on his private island and sexually assaulted her for the six months she was trapped there. She also says the language of media outlets commonly use to describe sexual assault made her hesitant to come forward: “There were many times that I was going to come forward in the last 14 years,” Ransome told Glamour. “But the one thing that really, really upset me was the phrase ‘sex slave.’ It is so horrible.”
Virginia Giuffre, who says she was 16 when she was introduced to Epstein by Maxwell while working at Mar-a-Lago’s spa, similarly balks at the term, saying it both minimizes and sensationalizes the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of both Epstein and his friends: “Language is a huge importance to this topic, Giuffre said. “I mean, are we sex slaves? No. Are we victims of sexual abuse and trafficking? Yes, we are.”
According to the survivors, these distinctions are important because a term like “sex slave” might garner clicks but it does nothing to lessen the taboo around talking about sex trafficking. And to end rampant abuse, Giuffre hopes to enable conversations that make ending sex trafficking as common a cause as ending drug smuggling: “We’re happy to say, ‘Oh my God, did you hear that? They seized 10,000 kilos of heroin overnight,’ or something. That’s not taboo. But why is it so scary to say, ‘Sex trafficking is an $100 billion industry.’ We should be talking about it at dinner parties, and we should all be thinking of how to initiate a change in the response from other people.”
And while public acknowledgment of what they went through is important to the survivors, justice is the main priority. Though Epstein died by suicide in jail, Maxwell is still free, as are dozens of others accused of sexually assaulting the women Epstein allegedly trafficked, some as young as 14 and 15. “I’m sorry,” Ransome said. “I don’t need to see acknowledgment. I want to see, actually, people go to jail. I want [them] in prison. That’s what I want.”
Ransome also noted that just because Epstein is dead doesn’t mean that young women are safe. He was far from alone in his abuse. From Glamour:
“Because these people? They’re still a danger to the public. I mean, they’re still walking the street. You know, I don’t want recognition. I don’t want a pat on the back. I don’t want to “be heard.” I want something. Ghislaine [Maxwell] is still walking the streets. Jean-Luc [Brunel] is still walking the streets. It’s not good enough just to be heard.”
Meanwhile Maxwell, the wealthy daughter of a British media magnate that the New York Post describes as an “accused madam,” remains in hiding but is reportedly in talks to do a sit-down television interview.