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  • Kelly Watt

Epstein's Spin: Why His Victims Said Yes

I cannot stop thinking about Epstein’s girls. I hate to even refer to them in this way, but there is no universe in which their lives will not be forever stamped by their tragic connection with this predator. I can’t help asking, besides the lure of money, which many of them needed for school, college, clothes, medical treatments, in one case, why did his victims say yes?

First of all language. Epstein lied. He made false promises, stringing them along with opportunities for school, for jobs, that he never made good on. Secondly, he used minimizing language as substitutes for the real thing. So sex was downgraded to a “massage.” This normalized what he was doing and made it sound simpler, safer than it was. He was careful to ask the girls for any additional act, asking them for consent, giving them the illusion that they had a choice and were in control. Never did he acknowledge his privileged and powerful position, nor that the underage impressionable girls he was luring, were terrified and unlikely to say no, were really still just children accustomed to trusting adults and doing what they said. To call it consent is a joke. In the initial criminal case in 2008, where he pleaded guilty to sex with a 14-year old girl, and secured a controversial plea deal, he referred to the child sexual abuse he committed with a minor as “prostitution”, summoning the idea of a transaction or consent again. But there is no transaction if the parties are not equal. The truth is that these girls were in no position to negotiate anything, they were frightened and disempowered, innocent and at the mercy of his escalations.

Attorney General William Barr said, “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy…” as he vowed to go after those who aided Epstein. But the predator’s genius was to make his victims into co-conspirators right away. Often as soon as the first massage was over, Epstein would ask a young teen to recruit her friends, a tactic, which gave him leverage for manipulation, blackmail and threats, but also seduced the innocent into a false feeling of trust, that they were somehow protected, surrounded by friends, a fact which weirdly, once again normalized the requests.

Jeffrey Epstein was the king of spin, (clearly he fooled so many) and left these poor girls feeling guilty and ashamed, and somehow responsible for their own victimization. A tactic that ensured they wouldn’t tell. He made sure that they felt implicated in their own abuse, and the abuse of others so they wouldn’t rat him out.

In my book Mad Dog, the predator and photographer Fergus, uses Sheryl, my main character as his smoke screen. Having taken in his niece he plays the Good Samaritan. Pedophiles often exploit others, children, women, dogs, and helping organizations, to make themselves and their motives appear more wholesome than they are. We need to educate today’s children, on the tactics of predators, so that they don’t fall victim to devious spin.

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