As a trafficker, Ghislaine Maxwell is no aberration – News @ Northeastern

As horrific as her actions are, Ghislaine Maxwell fulfilled a traditional gender role when she recruited sex trafficking victims for late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“In some parts of the world, trafficking in women is the norm,” UN investigators said in a report on trafficking published more than 10 years ago.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report indicates that sexual exploitation is the most common form of trafficking and finds that in 30% of countries providing information on the sex of traffickers, women constitute the largest proportion of offenders.

Yet little is understood about the phenomenon, which researchers say is often linked to the abuse and economic powerlessness of women, resulting in a complex feedback loop in which victims can become offenders.

“Often women get involved in recruitment and grooming as a way to escape exploitation or carve out a role that will offer them more protection and the opportunity to get out of exploitation themselves,” says Amy Farrell, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University.

“It’s often not a simple story,” says Farrell, who co-directs the university’s Violence and Justice Research Lab with criminology professor Carlos Cuevas.

Amy Farrell, Northeast Director and professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, poses for a portrait. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

While men make up the overwhelming majority of sexual predators, “very often you have female collaborators when it comes to trafficking,” Cuevas says.

“They may be victims who have become assistants in trafficking,” Cuevas says.

Their gender makes it easier for them to take on the role of recruiter and approach girls and young women who might feel threatened by a man, Cuevas says.

“Ghislaine played that role a lot for Epstein,” Cuevas says.

Maxwell scoured trailer parks and spas for teenage girls and young women, presenting herself to them as a kind and caring upper-class socialite.

In a victim witness statement, Virginia Giuffre called Maxwell a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said she used her “femininity to betray us”.

“You joked that you were like a new mother to us,” Giuffre wrote. “As a woman, I think you understood the damage you were causing, the price you were making us pay the victims.”

Carlos Cuevas, professor of criminology and criminal justice and co-director of the Violence and Justice Research Laboratory, poses for a portrait. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Little is known about sex traffickers in the United States, as most research on women who exploit other girls and women – and sometimes boys and men – comes from findings in Asia, Africa, Australia , in India and Europe, according to a March 2021 study report in the journal International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice.

“None described female traffickers in the United States,” the report said.

But the trial and sentencing of Maxwell – who appealed his trafficking convictions and 20-year sentence – is not the first high-profile case involving female traffickers in the United States in recent years.

Margo Lindauer
Margo Lindauer, director of the Domestic Violence Institute at Northeastern’s School of Law, poses for a portrait. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

In 2019, “Smallville” actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges in connection with alleged sex trafficking by the NXIVM cult, according to the insider.

Former NXIVM leader Keith Raniere was convicted of multiple counts, including child sex trafficking, and sentenced to 120 years in prison.

In addition to Mack, other women in the cult have pleaded guilty and admitted to owning sex slaves and recruiting women to join NXIVM, also known as DOS or the Vow, the insider says.

Women traffickers not only recruit victims, but also play a role in running the sexual exploitation trade by guarding and transporting victims and securing counterfeit IDs and hotel rooms, according to the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 2020 report.

Sometimes trafficked women are promised that they will no longer have to prostitute themselves if they take on an organizational role, even though this promise is often broken, the report says.

The report called another category of traffickers “partners in crime.” These women tend to be of higher status and “appear to engage in acts of sex trafficking on a voluntary basis as part of a partnership (romantic, family or business) with male sex traffickers”.

Epstein’s former girlfriend Maxwell appears to fall squarely into that category, according to prosecutors, victim impact statements and a Miami Herald investigation, “Perversion of Justice.”

“It was very clear that Ghislaine made the first contact, was the point of contact and acted as a buffer for (Epstein),” says Margo Lindauer, clinical professor of law at Northeastern University School of Law and director of the Law School Domestic Violence Institute. . “It wasn’t just once. It happened again and again. In this situation, it was very clear (Maxwell) was playing the role of this false nurturer. It was so premeditated.”

Lindauer says that while Epstein “was the one who perpetuated the majority of the physical damage,” she disagrees with the idea that Maxwell served as the court’s proxy to prosecute him.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Lindauer says. “He couldn’t do what he did without her.”

“The Maxwell case is more clearly a situation where she played the role of an aggressor, using her own privileges to recruit and gain the trust of women whom she and Epstein would exploit,” Farrell says.

Maxwell benefited from the trafficking scheme “and clearly should be held accountable,” she says.

But, says Farrell, “engaging women in recruiting is rarely that simple.”

In many other cases, considering prosecuting traffickers “forces the justice system to recognize that people can occupy complex roles as both victims and perpetrators,” she says.

Epstein’s investigation showed he paid off some of his victims to find other teenagers to abuse. Teenagers from poor families testified that middleman fees seemed like a lot of money to them.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s fifth global report on human trafficking 2020 makes a clear link between poverty and trafficking and warns that the already growing problem of human trafficking, including including forced labor, is set to worsen with the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Criminalizing trafficking — as the United States did in 2000 with federal legislation — will help, as will raising social awareness, the UN report says. Reparations for victims are another consideration, he says.

Making education and employment opportunities accessible to young people and eliminating structural inequalities that make women and girls the main victims of trafficking will also help to combat trafficking, the report says.

“These are complex situations where someone’s victimization and the strain of that experience must be acknowledged, while realizing that there is responsibility for the victimization of others,” Farrell says.

For media inquiriesplease contact [email protected].

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