The death of Jeffrey Epstein, in August 2019, in the cell in which he was imprisoned for just over a month, he left a bitter taste in the mouth of the women who survived the sexual abuse perpetrated by him – some had waited for more than 15 years to face him face to face and take back control over your own stories. “It was a shock,” he said in an interview with Estadão Marijke Chartouni. Had it not been for a gesture by the judge, which gave them room to speak in court, they would have once again been silent. The objective of Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, series running until Sunday, at 8 pm, at canal Lifetime, it is precisely to amplify the voice of these women. “We wanted the story to be told from the perspective of the survivors,” said producer Robert Friedman.
The case of Jeffrey Epstein, like those of Harvey Weinstein e R. Kelly, who also generated a series on the same channel, is one of those who demand an answer to the question: how did this man manage to sexually abuse so many girls and young women with impunity, for so long? The first accusations against him came in 2005, on Palm Beach, a luxury island in South Florida. The press and investigators were able to raise not only dozens of cases but a pyramid scheme in which one girl recruited others. In 2008, the billionaire was arrested, but he reached a deal, in spite of the victims, in which he was sentenced to just 18 months in prison – and left before that. As soon as he left the jail, he circulated again in the same circles of rich and powerful as before, alongside other rich and powerful like Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton. “How did he get back to living in society, and people just forgave him, without really being punished for what he did, or even acknowledging the severity of what he did?” Asked Ricki Stern, who co-directed the series with Anne Sundberg.
So it is not difficult to understand why so many chose to remain silent. For Marijke, the strength to speak came only with Epstein’s second arrest in 2019, post-movement Me Too. “For me, it felt like the right thing to do. I thought I could help other people in the same situation, saying that they didn’t have to carry shame and secrecy, ”he said. “Before his arrest, I did not understand the seriousness of the case. I didn’t know that what had happened to me had also happened to others. I thought it just happened to me. And I believed it was my fault. ” Sundberg hopes the series will assist in the debate over changes in the prescription of crimes involving sexual abuse. “And I hope that it can strengthen women’s ability to draw attention to this type of behavior and assist in building prosecutions against criminals.”
Surviving Jeffrey Epstein highlights the sophisticated operation of human trafficking and sexual abuse, giving an individual voice to each of the women. “In other projects, the survivors were grouped. We wanted to give each woman a chance to talk about her unique experience. But on the whole, their testimonies show the different tactics they used to involve girls, ”said Sundberg. In general, they were girls who had already suffered some form of sexual abuse without punishment for the culprits – and who therefore thought it was how the world worked – or who were from unstructured or very poor families, for whom the promised $ 200 for a massage they made a difference. Many continued to go on for years. “We want to open this dialogue so that people understand why this is happening. And that there is no right or wrong in the way each one faces trauma. We have to respect, educate and listen. And so I hope that the way we handle this issue will change. ”
Epstein was not alone. There was a network of people who facilitated his action, including his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested in July this year, when the series was just two weeks away. Despite the limited time, the team managed to include the detention of Ghislaine, who not only enticed the girls, but is also accused of sexual abuse. For Anne Sundberg, this may be the survivors’ chance to have the longed-for justice. “Your trial may bring some sort of conclusion to these women,” said the director. The case, however, continues to run, with new revelations weekly. But at least the survivors were finally heard.
Watch the trailer for Surviving Jeffrey Epstein: