Sketch of some of Epstein's accusers in court. Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
Denied true justice by his death, over 20 women had their day in court this week at a special hearing where they told stories of being coerced, threatened, traumatized and raped as young girls by Jeffrey Epstein and his longtime sex trafficking operation of underage girls. In a packed federal courtroom in New York, the women stood before Judge Richard Berman, often in tears, and described "a life sentence" of guilt and shame, the brutal theft of their innocence, trust, joy, the "irreparable damage and pain" they will carry for the rest of their lives, and their belief now is the time to "bring light to the darkness" that was their struggle. Of 15 women who spoke in court, 10 identified themselves by name; others' lawyers read statements they'd written. Many had come from poor childhoods and vulnerable situations where, one said, "we didn't have anyone on our side." While each had their own story, many said their abuse started with nude "massages" that eventually spiraled into violent rape. Epstein was "really strategic in how he approached each of us," one noted. "Things happened slowly over time, (like the) analogy of a frog being in a pan of water and slowly turning up the flame."
Many of the women recounted their sense of feeling small and powerless over many years, and their realization that Epstein could "never fathom what he took from us." His suicide, many angrily noted, robbed them of the chance to confront him with that damage. "For that," charged Courtney Wild, who Epstein abused for years, "he is a coward." They also urged prosecutors to continue to pursue his enablers, arguing, "The reckoning must not end." Above all, the accusers stressed they view themselves not as victims but as survivors who have literally survived their abuser, and won back vital parts of themselves by speaking up. Said accuser Teala Davies at a press conference after the hearing, "Today is a day of power and strength." That same belief in the healing power of words lies behind "Indelible in the Hippocampus," a new, intersectional collection of essays, fiction and poetry about to be published by McSweeney's that takes its title from Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford's 2018 testimony to Congress of her clearest memory from her assault by Brett Kavanaugh: "Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter." The book, says one fan, "is a proper danger to patriarchal silencing." And so are all those brave victims turned survivors.
"Speaking lights a candle in a room inside us." - Gabrielle Bellot, from "Indelible in the Hippocampus."
Survivor Teala Davies at press conference. Reuters photo
#MeToo march in New York City