What the Case Against Jeffrey Epstein Can Teach Us About Child Sex Trafficking

The accusations against Jeffrey Epstein are a horror show of almost unimaginable scope that suggest not only individual depravity but institutional indifference of a sort that deflates our confidence in the blindness of justice. But even as we grapple with the nature of the allegations, we are also wondering what we can learn from the details put forward by law enforcement. Even in the context of a national reckoning on sexual violence, Epstein’s case is unusual. Epstein is an uber-wealthy member of the American social elite charged with sex trafficking — one of the most unspoken and misunderstood crimes in our society. Sex trafficking is an all-too-common crime. But we so frequently associate it with the streets or massage parlors. Epstein was doing his work on a jet, in palatial estates and at country clubs, according to the charges and the statements of women who say they were abused as girls. To understand the implications of this crime, it’s important to recognize there is a clear line between soliciting sex and sex trafficking. While many prostitutes in the United States are victims of sex trafficking, their traffickers typically play the role of “pimps,” selling their victims’ bodies for a price. In 2007, Epstein pleaded guilty to solicitation, not sex trafficking. While soliciting a prostitute is illegal, it’s a lesser crime than trafficking someone for sex. This is the most common critique of Epstein’s much-criticized plea deal. Most of the more than 100 victims the Palm Beach Police identified in amassing their case were underage and unable to legally consent to sex, let alone prostitution. Prostitution of a child, under federal law, is sex trafficking.   Continue reading...

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