Feminist Utopia Podcast Transcript for Episode 13
Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a community dedicated to envisioning and creating a more just society for all.
So welcome to this week’s episode of Feminist Utopia where we are imagining a world where sexual predators are held to account and are made to pay for the crimes that they commit. We have been outraged by the news about the Epstein matter and wanted to dive into that topic… and explain our take, and what’s going on, and what the effects are, and what we can do about it!
Debby: Yes, what we can do about it. I didn’t know that Jeffrey Epstein was out of jail. I knew he had gone to jail. I didn’t really know for what. Everybody knew he was into young girls for a decade! And then all of a sudden, I see in the news that they’re arresting him again. And I’m like… for what? Oh, it’s for the stuff we knew he already did?
Benita: You know, honestly I didn’t hear about Jeffrey Epstein until I heard a podcast about it. It really wasn’t until Trump was running for office and Acosta was being put up for labor secretary. And then all of a sudden this comes out about Epstein. But I really think that the credit goes to Miami Herald and the author of that seminal article that kept Epstein in the spotlight. We’ll put a link in the show notes, but I think that that one article led to continuing scrutiny and to the current charges. So yay Miami Herald!
Debby: They had their Boston Globe moment. So, who is Jeffrey Epstein and why should we care about yet another white male billionaire who does terrible things? This has been going on for literally decades. And the federal government even knew about it dating as far back as 2002 is my understanding.
Benita: It was in 2007… Debby: Okay.
Benita: … when they prepared the indictment. So they were investigating him for years before they prepared this 53 page indictment that could have put Epstein in prison for life for the sex trafficking of minors. So beginning in at least 2002 and continuing until 2005, Epstein is allegedly to have abused dozens of girls by causing them to engage in sex acts with him at his mansion in New York and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. It ended up that he admitted to committing only one offense with one underage girl who was erroneously labeled as a prostitute even though she was 14!
Debby: Is the the young… well, she’s still young woman… who said, “I was 14. I had braces. I wasn’t a prostitute.”
Benita: Right. But as a result of that, Epstein served only 13 months for solicitation. And the crazy thing is… he was allowed to leave jail and work from his office for 12 hours a day 6 days a week. How is even being incarcerated?!
Debby: So he could just go to his office and just hang out… and maintain his job and have people visit him and live like a free man 12 hours a day. So he’d come back to sleep effectively, right?
Benita: Exactly. Yeah, and he had a driver to and from. And the other big person in this crazy scenario is Trump’s former secretary of labor (he did just resign) Acosta. I forget his first name.
Benita: How he fits in is… he’s the one that… when he was a federal prosecutor in Florida, he brokered this plea deal that has been under scrutiny, appropriately. And he got, like we mentioned, Epstein was in jail but he was able to leave. The deal included a non-prosecution agreement which essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in the crime. And it granted immunity to any potential co-conspirators who were also involved.
Benita: So we weren’t able to find out if there were more people involved. And if there were, they were granted immunity. Also as part of the agreement… and this is the truly horrific part in my opinion. He agreed that the deal would be kept from the victims. So the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge. And none of the victims had their day in court. And there is a federal law prohibiting that. And now that’s coming back up and and actually that was declared illegal. So hopefully these women will eventually get their day in court.
Debby: Was that being hid from the victims to protect… Acosta and his fellow prosecutors? Or was it being hidden to… I can’t think of any good reason to hide it from the victims. Because you just don’t want the victims upset?
Benita: Well, they didn’t want the victims to muddy the waters and somehow complain about the deal that was brokered. And the way I understand it is… Epstein has more money than God.
Benita: And he hired the lawyers (that sold their soul for money) to put pressure on Acosta and the prosecutor’s office. And Acosta broke to the pressure put on by Epstein’s attorney and basically rolled over and gave them whatever they wanted. And that was part of the deal was this secrecy.
Debby: And Epstein also had other, more powerful friends. We’ll get into that, including like the son of the Queen of England for crying out loud! So he literally had powerful friends all over the globe.
Debby: So it would be easy to put the pressure on Acosta.
Benita: Right. And there was an attorney at the time… the Palm Beach State Attorney’s office was handling the case, and the police thought that they were mishandling it and that it was being undermined. So, they referred the case out to the FBI. And then when the FBI got involved, they complained about the agreement, but by the time it was unsealed Epstein had already served his time and been released from jail. So there really wasn’t anything else… and then they just gave up on everything until…
Benita: … all of a sudden Trump is in office… and he’s going to drain the swamps, right? So he hires Acosta as his labor secretary!
Debby: What’s interesting to me is that Acosta still hasn’t backed down from the idea that this was in any way inappropriate. This is a man who has daughters!
Benita: And he’s still says that he believes they proceeded appropriately and that he claims that the state attorney’s office was ready to let Epstein walk free… And he did what he did because he thought Epstein should go to jail. But other people… former Florida state attorney Barry Krischer said in a statement that “He’s completely wrong.” And that if Acosta was truly concerned about the state’s case and felt that they had to do something, he could have moved forward with that 53 page indictment that his own office drafted.
Acosta’s being compared to the Catholic Church in the way they handled this case. They are protecting Epstein in a horrific manner similar to the way the Catholic Church protected pedophile priests.
Debby: If you’ve got powerful friends… if you’re a friend of the system, and Jeffrey Epstein clearly is. He has friends on all sides of the aisle. I’ve seen this meme posted, “Well are you going to still think Acosta’s a bad guy if Bill Clinton is on that list?” and I’m like… Yes! I think they all go to jail!
Benita: I agree! So there’s a photo with Trump and Epstein and they replaced Trump’s head with Bill Clinton’s head. But it’s a completely fake photo. And there aren’t any pictures of Bill Clinton with Epstein. And I think that is solely because Clinton is smarter, and his people are smarter. They knew that he was not a person you wanted to take photos with because they were consorting with him in full knowledge of the crimes he was committing.
Debby: I honestly don’t have any problem whatsoever with left-wing, progressive Democrats if they were involved with Epstein. Because Epstein didn’t just get the girls for himself. He didn’t rape them all on his own. He and his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, she would work with him to find children for his powerful friends. And there’s a picture of Prince Andrew, the current Duke of York with one of the women… well, she’s now a woman but she was a child then, who was underage and victimized. So I’m fine with everybody going to jail on this. I don’t care what they do politically.
It’s interesting how, speaking of powerful friends, how Trump rallied to Acosta. I honestly believe that Acosta decided to resign. I do not think that Trump fired him.
Benita: Well, there’s credible charges that President Trump was taking advantage of the women that Epstein procured for them.
Benita: In 2016, there was a lawsuit filed by Jane Doe that alleged that in 1994 when she was thirteen, she was at Epstein’s house where Trump tied her to a bed, raped her, and struck her in the face. The account was corroborated by a witness who claimed to have seen the child perform sexual acts on both Trump and Epstein.
Debby: Ugh. There was an article that was being written about Epstein for Vanity Fair about six years ago. Where the parts about Epstein being with younger women were removed by the then editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair named Graydon Carter who said, “Well, he gets sensitive when you talk about the girls.”
Debby: He didn’t say it wasn’t true! He just said Epstein will be upset if we print this.
Benita: And Epstein also paid people to publish positive stories about him. A writer named Drew Hendricks supposedly authored a Forbes story calling Epstein one of the largest backers of cutting edge science… admitted that he was paid $600 to post the pre-written article and use his name! Forbes removed the piece after the New York Times published its article exposing it. But that’s too little, too late.
Debby: This incident really amazed me. Jeffrey Epstein’s people wrote an article, paid a well-known writer to publish it under his own name. That’s how serious Jeffrey Epstein was about his public image. And he’s into science! He was friends with Stephen Hawking even! There are photos of them together. Seems like Epstein’s friends with everybody.
Benita: Right, oh especially Harvard! He donates heavily to charitable causes in order to mitigate his bad reputation. And he donated $10 million dollars to Harvard, and all of a sudden Harvard University’s website has got a page dedicated to his accomplishments and news releases describing his ambitions and dedication to charitable causes.
Debby: So this is one of the things that really upset me about the Epstein case. I knew he’d gone to jail for something. I didn’t know that when he came out of jail… He was in jail in Florida; he goes back to New York. And it isn’t like he’s shunned at all. Everybody’s still his friend. If anything he became more popular! And Epstein was offended by the idea that he had a sex offender status.
Benita: And in 2011, he petitioned in New York to have his sex offender status reduced. And his attorney argued that the Florida case never led to an indictment and that his underage victims failed to cooperate in the case…. When we know now that they didn’t fail to cooperate, the deal was done under the table in secret. They didn’t have the opportunity to cooperate! Fortunately, Supreme Court judge Ruth Pickholz denied the petition and expressed astonishment that the request was even made!
Debby: Yes, that was what I found absolutely stunning about that. Again, I want to drive home that this is not a right versus left. This isn’t a Democrat versus a Republican scenario. There isn’t a political side to this. This is a moral side.
Benita: The only small bright light, Epstein is in jail now. He’s being held without bail at the New York Correctional Center, and he could spend up to 45 years in prison. So, that’s something? Investigators found a safe filled with photographs of children in his eastside Manhattan townhouse suggesting that he probably didn’t stop the abuse after his prison time.
Debby: Why would he?
Benita: Right. Let’s talk a little bit about the victims of his crimes. There are innumerable women. In that Miami Herald article I mentioned, they identified about 80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused from 2001-2006. They were able to locate 60 of them. Eight of them agreed to be interviewed. Four of them were willing to speak on video. All of them have grappled with trauma, depression, addiction… some have served time in prison. And a few didn’t survive. One young woman was found dead last year in a rundown motel in West Palm Beach.
Debby: You know, if you think about the numbers for a minute… that they found 80 women who were willing to admit that this happened to them. Let’s generously say that 10% of women will admit that it happened to them. That’s an astounding number.
Benita: It is. And he just preyed on vulnerable girls. He went after girls that he thought no one would listen to, and he was right!
And he lied about what he was asking them to do. They didn’t know what they were getting themselves into until they got there. One of the things that was really interesting to me was the evidence the police department collected to support the girls’ stories were really overwhelming. They said it wasn’t just a he said, she said kind of a thing. There were fifty something “shes” and one “he.” And all the girls basically told the same story, and they didn’t all know each other! So these were girls that didn’t know each other, had no connection with each other, but all had the same experience at Epstein’s house. And it got to be where the interview was so common… And it went like this. I was brought there by so-and-so. I didn’t feel comfortable with happened, but I got paid well. And I was told if I didn’t want to do it, I could bring someone else and still get paid. The stories were uncannily consistent right down to their detailed descriptions of Epstein’s genitalia.
They had flight logs, and phone call records, and copies of phone messages found in Epstein’s trash. Just an enormous amount of evidence. A lot of the girls were one step away from homelessness. They were disadvantaged families, single parent homes or foster care. They didn’t have anybody advocating for them!
Debby: Predators and molesters often choose people that won’t be believed. And young girls who are poor are considered easy targets. If you’re going to be homeless, what are you going to do for $600 bucks?
Benita: Not just poor, but neglected. Debby: Yes
Benita: They had parents and friends that committed suicide, mothers abused by husbands, fathers who molested and beat them and… The girls were like we just wanted money for
clothes, for shoes! We had no family and no guidance. We were told we were just going to have to sit in a room and they would look at us. It sounded simple, and it was going to be easy money!
Debby: These girls were just brought to Epstein’s mansion for him. They were brought there to be raped by people he deemed friends, and people he wanted influence with, and people he wanted to impress.
One of the rape victims Courtney Wild said that she measured her life before Jeffrey and after Jeffrey and… When she walked into the mansion, she was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band, an “A” student on the Honor Roll. And then after, she became a stripper, a drug addict, and later ended up in prison. Her life fell apart. It was a turning moment, and nobody cared. Nobody who was supposed to protect her cared! She was labeled a prostitute, a whore. These young girls, their lives were destroyed.
Benita: And their lives were destroyed not only by Epstein, but the failure of our criminal justice system. Can you imagine opening your life up to report this to the police and having them have the overwhelming evidence that they did and then all of a sudden there’s a secret deal? And it’s done? And you had no day in court? It’s outrageous how they minimize his crimes and devalue his victims.
And can we just talk for a minute about the media and their contributions to this? Continuing to refer to the victims of his crimes as women instead of girls. There’s no such thing as an underage woman.
Debby: Exactly. And there’s no such thing as a child prostitute. Benita: Exactly
Debby: The victims aren’t the perpetrators. Those young girls who were destroyed by Epstein and his friends are victims.
Benita: You know, I think it’s a mistake to even call it sex. He wasn’t engaging in sex acts. He was raping these women.
Debby: You’re right.
Benita: Let’s call it what it is. Sex implies consent and equal footing and of course legality of age. So it was not sex. It was sexual assault and rape and molestation, but not sex. And when we use those polite words in reporting and talking about these horrific crimes, we create the impression that these sexual abusers aren’t that bad. And that’s a problem.
And they were children, not underaged women. They were children.
Debby: So of course, this is all rooted tremendously in rape culture. This is why it’s not a right or left thing. It starts with the use of language. Because it’s the misogyny in the words. That is the base level that supports rape culture all the way up to the top of the pyramid where people like Jeffrey Epstein go out of their way to harm women. And there are intermediate steps, and part of it is people like the media using these words and promoting these stories that these young children are somehow complicit in their abuse!
Benita: Right, there was even one article that referred to the girls as underage females which robs them of their girlhood and their humanness.
To me the most disturbing about this Epstein case is the implication that again of Donald Trump as a rapist and how he’s not being held accountable for his crime which is giving permission to all the men. And it’s that ripple effect of a presidency that silences and devalues women and girls while elevating the men who harm them. And we’ve seen Trump do that. Elevating Brett Kavanaugh… he stood by his Supreme Court pick even after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward. And he stood by Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore in 2017 even after multiple allegations that Moore had sexually abused teen girls. And he stood by Acosta, telling reporters he thought that Acosta had explained the plea deal during his news conference. Trump said, “He made a deal that people were happy with. Then twelve years later, they weren’t happy with it.”
Debby: And this is where the hope is. Trump laid it out for us. The hope is that it’s no longer acceptable to make that deal. Jeffrey Epstein is likely going to jail for reals this time.
Benita: I certainly hope so.
Debby: And I think that we can put that down to #MeToo. And I think this is going to take time to see it come to fruition. Do I think Trump is ever going to be held accountable for his crimes regarding sexual assault? Probably not. But at least we’re having the conversation because ten years ago, we weren’t even having the conversation.
Benita: I would like to be that encouraged. It still looks really bleak to me because I feel like what we’re teaching the generations of young boys that are coming up is that they’ll be rewarded for abusing women. And that men are made stronger at the expense of women. And they just have to look at Brett Kavanaugh…
Debby: Brock Turner, whose dad said “Well, why should his life be ruined because he got twenty minutes of action?”
Benita: Right, and then there are so many! R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Elvis Presley… It’s rape culture.
But we do want to end on a positive note, and we do have a call to action! And I found an organization called Live Your Dreams, and I really liked their mission statement because I think it kind of aligns with ours. Live Your Dreams mission statement is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. We envision a world where women and girls have the resources and opportunities they need to reach their full potential and live their dreams…. Which sounds a lot like Feminist Utopia, in my opinion.
Debby: I think it sounds awesome! Yeah, go check them out. But also I know my takeaway is that I’m going to work harder to be more conscious of my language when discussing these instances. And use girls and rape and molestation… One of my online activist friends posts a lot about the concentration camp issue. And the hashtag is don’t look away. And that’s… I’m not going to look away. I’m going to use the right words and not let other people look away.
Benita: It’s horrific language that’s not comfortable to use but it’s horrific crimes that can’t be ignored.
Debby: Anyway, we’ll have show notes with a lot of links for you to go check stuff out at.
Benita: And we’ll, you know, promise to continue to follow this story and bring you updates. Hopefully we’ll have an episode about how long he’s going to stay in jail and how many other people are going to join him there. So, we’ll look forward to that!
Debby: Okay, thank you! Have a good week.
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We appreciate you taking the time to listen and grow with us. Feminist Utopia is created by Debby Williams and Benita Malone.