* Spoiler Alert*
A four-part docu-series that one can only describe as shocking and disturbing as revelations of the convicted sex offender unravel.
The late American financier, worth millions, possessed such power, wealth and influence, which he was able to utilise to get away with decades of abuse. Jeffrey Epstein’s display of acts were so sinister and evil, they were almost unfathomable, not to mention the longevity of his crimes.
The series widely focuses on a group of women who survived his abuse, with accounts that date back as far as 1996. As they recall their painful version of events the discomfort that arises proves a difficult watch, but as the series delves deeper into the survivor’s accounts, we cannot help but stay invested in what is yet to come and how the story ends. “The way I saw myself a long time ago was like this flower opening up, and afterwards it was like somebody picked up that flower, plucked it from its roots and stomped on it…” – Michelle Lacata tearfully recalls in episode 1.
It becomes evident, “There is no justice in this,” says Shawna Rivera as she speaks publicly for the first time of Epstein’s alleged abuse, which began at the mere age of 14. “There was just so much more to be said that will never be said.” Where is the happy ending? How could there be when there is no real accountability. Justice was not served for many of these women, who instead were betrayed by a system that was supposed to protect them. We see this when Maria Farmer and her sister Annie reported Epstein and his then-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell (she denies all allegations) to the FBI in 1996 for allegedly molesting them, “We never heard anything back,” says Maria.
Fast forward to July 2019, Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking. His tactics of bribery, intimidation and extensive legal representation could no longer be used as tools to serve in his favour. The ‘Gatsby-like figure of mystery,’ as described by Vicky Ward in the Netflix series, had become exposed; his monstrous bubble of ignorance and bliss had finally burst. What a triumph one would think, especially for the women subject to his sick acts, but his death a month later inside a New York jail denied survivors closure and their true day in court (his death has also sparked numerous conspiracy theories which the show does in no way endorse).
This somewhat echoes his initial arrest in 2008, where Epstein entered a secret plea deal that would see him serve only 11 months out of 13 in Palm Beach Jail with 6 days out on ‘work release’. A man who was meant to be incarcerated was free to go about as he pleased; you can only imagine the outrage and disappointment – not to mention the controversy, as the deal was kept private from his accusers.
It’s inconceivable how a predator like Epstein who had numerous allegations made against him, could be offered such a deal, but with the state attorney on his side and an untouchable team of lawyers, including Alan Dershowitz – who represented OJ Simpson – it’s no surprise he was able to negotiate such a sweet deal. This again reinforces the influence Epstein possessed and the way he exploited this power.
Similarly, and evident throughout the 4-hour series, Epstein’s main tool was one of power and control. Him, alongside Ghislaine Maxwell, were able to lure these young girls with promises of money and career prospects. Many came from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds, making it easy for Epstein to infiltrate their lives and manipulate them. They were exposed to a world of wealth and extravagance, unknown territory for many of these girls which served as a driving force for Epstein. It would often start with the request for a massage at his place of residence. The girls were under the impressions they would be paid $200, only later to find themselves in a situation of sexual coercion. Some were even persuaded to recruit other girls in exchange for money, as we saw with Haley Robson, who was 16 when she first encountered Epstein and thus became another victim in his sex ring.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre was 17 when she met Epstein and has long been advocating justice for years. She alleges she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew – one of Epstein’s many high-profile friends – whilst on his private island in the US Virgin Islands. According to the survivor’s attorneys, the island was home to some of the worst violations against minors committed by Epstein and his friends (who would frequently travel there). A former employee of the island alleges he witnessed Giuffre topless by the pool with Prince Andrew engaging in ‘foreplay’. The Prince has denied the allegations and claims he has no memory of meeting 17-year-old Giuffre, despite a photograph that suggests otherwise. Her age at the time has also been disputed however Giuffre strongly denies this.
If there is one thing to take away from Filthy Rich, it is the absence of clarity. Whilst it does provide a voice for many of his survivors, who have endured years of silence, it fails to hold all those accountable in Epstein’s high-profile circle. They have been able to elude attention and continue to do so. “The monsters are still out there and they’re still abusing other people,” Giuffre says in the final episode. “Why they have not been named and shamed yet is beyond me.” It’s hard not to resonate with Giuffre’s words as viewers are left with grave feelings of disappointment and outrage for these women who deserved so much more from the criminal justice system.
- Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich is available to watch on Netflix
- Based on the 2016 book with the same name by James Patterson, co-written by John Connolly and Tim Malloy