No one but Ghislaine Maxwell is to blame for her revolting crimes

The British former socialite and convicted procurer Ghislaine Maxwell ha sido condenado a 20 years in prison for charges of recruiting and trafficking young girls.

It is a significant sentence that reflects the enormity of what the judge called her “heinous” crimes. In the weeks leading up to her sentencing, her lawyers presented arguments for her mitigation. Much of this was a lengthy description of Maxwell’s unhappy childhood. Before you get your hankies out and declare, "Ah, that explains it”, I will remind you of what Maxwell was convicted: conspiracy to entice minors to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sex activity, transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, and sex trafficking of a minor.

Uno de los girls was 14 when Maxwell lured her away off the street to a life of hideous abuse. Now that is definitely an unhappy childhood.

Maxwell’s life has been horrible in parts, to be sure. Su padre, the publisher Robert Maxwell, was one of the biggest fraudsters in British corporate history. Her eldest brother, Miguel, was in a car accident when Maxwell was two days old, leaving him with catastrophic injuries and in an unconscious state until he died several years later. At the age of three, allegedly suffering from anorexia, Maxwell declared to her mother, “Mummy, I exist.” Her father was often away and when at home was an overbearing bully. On one occasion, she says he hit her hand with a hammer, leaving it bruised for weeks. She was sent to boarding school. Her parents separated when she was 20. Her father drowned mysteriously as the authorities closed in on him. He always said he wouldn’t leave his children any money.

But as you read this, you are probably thinking of people you know who suffered some of those childhood experiences: the death of a sibling, a tyrannical father. A whole class of British people were sent to boarding schools. And a whole other class of British people never got left any money by their parents. Did they spend years procuring children for a rapist?

Maxwell’s los abogados han dicho of her background that “it made her vulnerable to Epstein”. This speaks to the popular narrative that Maxwell’s crimes can be explained because she is a victim of two bullies; her father and Jeffrey Epstein. I have spent nearly two years investigating Maxwell for a television series. I reject this narrative. She was a wicked, greedy and depraved criminal in her own right. She was an active partner in enticing and trafficking the girls and took part in sexual assaults. She revelled in the luxury lifestyle provided in return by Epstein, who gave her, among many gifts, an estimated $20m, with which she bought a $17m townhouse in New York. Her lifestyle was breathtaking; flitting on private planes between Epstein’s townhouse, the biggest private home in New York, and his fabulous Caribbean island.

Por supuesto, the nature of Maxwell’s crimes is hard to credit. As a society, we find it hard to accept that a woman would prey on and sexually assault other women. But it happens. Maxwell was an empowered woman who used her cunning and intelligence to commit crimes over years that brought her great wealth. Robert Maxwell can be blamed for many things: the robbery of his company’s pension scheme and his son Kevin becoming the biggest bankrupt in British history. But Ghislaine Maxwell is to blame for her own crimes, not her father.

If we believe in equality, we have to treat male and female sexual predators equally. Why should we assume that the woman is not responsible for her own actions and the man is the person really to blame for her crimes? I lead a women’s college at Cambridge. I am a feminist. I believe women can be as good as men – and as bad as men.

One of the interviewees in our documentary, The Making of a Monster, describes Maxwell’s attitude towards her victims. Cuando, without quite realising the enormity of what was happening, this woman expressed concern about very young women being with Epstein, Maxwell told her, “They are trash.” There is a connection with her father there. Robert Maxwell also treated both women and men like trash. Someone who knew them both told me, “When you are brought up without a moral compass, you can’t get one later.”

My favourite section of the mitigation statement makes the point that later in life, Ghislaine set up a charity to save the oceans. It’s great to know she really cared about fish. Desafortunadamente, the oceans will not have the benefit of her altruism during her 20 años en la cárcel. I think we can live with that.




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